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When You Find a Baby Squirrel – Remember WHAM
If you find a baby squirrel, you just need to remember the acronym WHAM to act like a care professional!
WHAM is a four-step process to ensure you cover all the bases in providing a systematic approach to ensure a baby squirrel has every chance to survive.
“W” stands for Warm.
Baby squirrels lose body heat very quickly, especially around the time they are born, usually in early March. Ideally, you’d like the mother to come get it, but it’s hard to leave a nearly naked body lying in the cold of early March waiting for its mother. I have found that a small cardboard box with a cloth rice bag heated in a microwave and attached to the tree, keeps the baby cozy and away from predators while it waits for its mother to find it. If she doesn’t come to pick it up, the box and rice bag is a great incubator to house the baby during early nursing, especially during the first five weeks when its eyes are closed. A baby squirrel should always feel warmer than your hand when you pick it up!
“H” stands for Hydrate.
A baby squirrel can become dehydrated very quickly. Their bodies are so small that it doesn’t take long for them to develop an electrolyte imbalance. If it gets bad enough, it can cause the heart to beat irregularly or even stop. If the baby looks very dry and wrinkled and its skin does not return to its normal flat appearance when you pinch it, or the baby is very sluggish to respond, even after warming up, you need to rehydrate it!
Many rehabilitators and Veterinarians will tell you to give tasteless Pedialyte electrolyte replacement fluid. This is fine, just warm it up and give small amounts with an eye dropper or small syringe. My only question is; where does a mother squirrel get Pedialyte when she picks up her baby and it is dehydrated? I have never lost a dehydrated baby squirrel by going straight to formula. So, you do whatever you want, just hydrate the baby.
“A” stands for Accommodate.
If you have reached this point in the WHAM process, you will need to make a decision about the future care of this animal. Will you keep it and try to lift and release it? Or are you going to take it to a rehab facility?
Part of accommodating it is taking a second, closer look at it. You’ve warmed it up and hydrated it, now look at it and check for other issues. If it has hair, look closely for vermin. Fleas and lice may be present. I use Hartz kitty flea spray on a cotton ball to kill any bugs and pick them off with tweezers.
Look for any bruises or open wounds. Check its legs for possible fractures. I treat wounds with raw coconut oil. You can wash them with soap and water and apply an antibiotic ointment.
Look for any signs of labored breathing. A baby squirrel should not use more than chest muscles to breathe. If it’s struggling to breathe, and its skin doesn’t look pink, it may have internal injuries. Check its abdomen for bruising or discoloration. This may be a sign of internal injuries. If you have questions, seek out a Veterinarian with experience with exotic pets or wild animals.
A baby squirrel can be very nicely housed in a box until its eyes open. Then, you will need a cage. A small cage is fine at first, but a larger cage will be necessary as the baby matures physically. My last cage before release is a large entry size in my back yard. It allows my squirrels to acclimate to living outside, while also allowing them to observe how other squirrels behave. It also allows them room to gain the exercise and climbing skills they will need when they are released.
“M” stands for Maintain.
Sustaining simply means continuing to do the things that need to be done to ensure that the squirrel has everything it needs to grow to be a healthy adult squirrel. Keeping it warm and fed when it’s a baby. Allowing it to breastfeed until it is weaned off formula, then providing it with the right types of food and calcium support to prevent metabolic bone disease.
Maintaining a squirrel until it is ready to release is not difficult, and it does not have to be expensive, but it does require diligence and desire. My wife and I have a passion for raising healthy and disease resistant squirrels and are always willing to help others do the same! It’s a labor of love for us, and that makes all the difference in the world!
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