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Raising orphaned Eastern Grey Squirrels

posted by mumsy4141 on Monday March 19th 9:58pm

Raising orphaned Grey Squirrels  CautionA very time and energy intensive job; probably not successfully done by children; requires intense patience and love for animals. Before taking home a baby squirrel, make sure that it is truly orphaned or too sick to survive in the wild; often the mother is hiding nearby waiting for you to leave. Be sure you are emotionally prepared to handle the animal's death or release. Squirrels are wild creatures; they must not be kept as pets indefinitely, but should be released into the wild when they are mature and ready. Requirements
  • comfortable "nest", in a small cage, (for babies)
  • suitable large cage and nest box (for weanlings)
  • warmth and safety
  • proper formula
  • syringe/eye dropper for feeding
  • lots of attention and love
Warmth95ºF until furred, then 90ºF; place large coffee mug or empty peanut butter jar inside a heavy, fuzzy (terry cloth or wool) sock; plug night-light (remove shade) with 7 Watt bulb into extension cord and place inside mug or jar. Place mug or jar inside nest box, covering lamp cord with top of sock to prevent animals from chewing cord. Close top of sock with twistum. Place jar upright so it cannot roll onto baby. For nest, use plastic shoe box-sized box or aquarium; line with clean soft towels or rags and cover with ventilated top. May need to cover part of box top with a towel to keep box warm enough. If you use a heating pad, put it on low; overheating is as dangerous as the cold. Check temperature with a thermometer! Closed EyesBaby squirrels do not open their eyes until 4 to 5 weeks of age (flying squirrels, 4 weeks; grey squirrels, 5 weeks). Until then they are very helpless and senseless. They cannot be given solid food, and they cannot even urinate on their own. FormulaEsbilac, Nurturall, or Just Born liquid puppy formula will suffice. Cow's milk and human baby formula are inadequate and almost poisonous, since baby squirrels cannot digest it. They need formula with a high fat content (ideally, non-water content of 60% fat), such as puppy formula. Also good (and maybe cheaper in the long run) is Esbilac powder puppy replacement formula: sterilize (boil) water for mixing; mix 1 part powder to 1½ parts water and add ½ part whipping cream. Formula can be obtained from Human Society or pet supply stores. Never add sweeteners! Never feed solid foods to baby before eyes open! Never use egg yolk! Emergency Formula: Use only until you can obtain proper formula: Mix whole milk and whipping cream. FeedingNever feed a baby until it is totally warmed, or it will die. Do not warm too rapidly; see warmth above. Do not feed human infant formulas! See above for proper formula. Never add sweeteners. Always test the temperature of food before feeding. After baby is fully warmed (it will feel hot to your touch), feed Pedialyte or warm Gatorade (or equivalent), every ½ hour for 5 feedings. Then feed formula diluted with Pedialyte or Gatorade (mix 1 to 1) every 1 hour for 4 feedings. Then feed formula full strength every 2 hours, and Pedialyte 3 times per day between regular feedings. For first 6 weeks of life, feed formula with 1 cc syringe (no needle!) or eye dropper every 2 hours during the day and 4 hours during the night. Feed approx. ¾ eye dropper full (0.6 to 1.0 cc) each time, and gradually increase amount as squirrel grows. [After the squirrel is one week old, 1 cc will no longer be enough; get a larger syringe and use this chart to determine feeding amounts.] Keep baby on formula until it is 3 to 4 months old, even though it may only take it once or twice a day. This is necessary for strong bone formation. Each feeding, heat about 1 cc (1 mL or 0.2 tsp.) of formula or Pedialyte; about 4 sec in microwave is enough. Apply a drop to your wrist (where you check your pulse) to test the temperature; if you can't feel it, it's right. Only heat enough formula for one feeding and discard any not used. Feed slowly, only one drop at a time, to avoid aspiration; if baby inhales formula, it will spoil in lungs and cause pneumonia. Caution: baby will not stop eating when it is full; overfeeding will cause diarrhea. After feeding squirrel's stomach should bulge slightly (stomach size about same as skull size). After feeding, you must sterilize all feeding utensils (containers, eye dropers, nipples and bottles) to prevent enteritis (a fatal intestinal infection) during first 5 weeks of squirrel's life. Special Note: Infants with eyes closed must be stimulated to urinate and defecate after each feeding or they will die. In the wild this is done by the mother's licking. Stroke genitals with moist, warm cotton ball or small soft rag until bladder and intestine are voided. It is OK if it doesn't defecate every time, but must urinate. Feces should be brown and formed into hard pellets. To summarize:
  • measure out formula (about 1 cc per week of age before eyes open)
  • heat formula (4 secs in microwave should do)
  • test temperature of formula: apply drop to wrist (below palm); you shouldn't feel it
  • get baby squirrel (you may want to hold them by their armpits for feeding in the beginning)
  • touch the syringe to its mouth and apply a small drop, if necessary
  • when baby begins sucking, slowly give formula
  • if eyes are still closed, stimulate baby to urinate
  • thoroughly clean and sterilize all feeding equipment, discarding extra heated formula
  • Illness and InjuryEnteritis (in infants)Symptoms: bubbly, foamy, bad-smelling diarrhea
    Causes: unsterilized feeding utensils, spoiled formula, improper fomula;
    overfeeding will cause yellow mushy stools at first—cut back immediately on amount fed at ech feeding! Injuriesfalls, running into sharp objects, attack by other animals (domestic cat is greatest danger) Cuterebra ("bot fly") Larvaeeggs laid on squirrel by large black "bot" fly; larvae hatch and burrow into animal, living under skin. May cause abcess infectoins and large open wounds; severe debilitation and death of mother and starvation of their babies.
    Treatment: capture squirrel and manually remove larvae; irrigation of wounds for several days; antibiotic ointment into abcesses. Need oral antibiotics, or in worst cases, injected antibiotics. Rabies and TetanusIt is very unlikely for squirrels to have rabies. While raising squirrels one will undoubtedly be bitten; this is normal. Make certain you are immunized for tetanus as this is a danger from squirrel bites once they have been released (because of soil in their mouths from burying nuts). After eyes openFeedingContinue formula (larger amounts but less often); gradually over next weeks increase time to every 3-4 hours; also add mashed banana at this time to diet — once a day. Add dish to cage containing very small amounts of wheat germ, wheat cereal flakes, and Cheerios (unsugared), small pieces of wheat bread, shelled sunflower seeds, peanut butter n bread. When baby is eating these foods well, add small slices of a variety of fruits and vegetables — only add 1 new food each few days — watch for diarrhea; carefully wash all vegetables and fruits to remove poisonous chemicals. Favorites: banana, apple, orange, grape, cantalope, sweet potato, brocoli, spinach, carrot), and shelled raw peanuts and shelled pecan halves. Do not feed any sweetened foods! Later still, begin adding unshelled sunflower seeds; when squirrel can easily shell these, begin giving nuts with shells cracked (pacans, filberts, walnuts, hickory nuts, acorns). Also include a few shelled peanuts (but peanuts are not an adequate food by themselves). Start trying unshelled acorns, peanuts, and almonds until these can easily be chewed through; then pecans, etc. Peanuts are not an adequate diet — be certain to feed a variety of other nuts to avoid serious dietary deficiencies. At this age all squirrels must have a well-cooked, cleaned soup or steak bone in their cage to provide necessary calcium and to grind teeth on. ReleaseNever release a young squirrel until it can quickly and easily crack open its own acorns and other hard-shelled nuts, otherwise it will starve to death! Do not release until it is 5 or 6 months old. When squirrel begins pacing back and forth and trying to chew out of cage, it is time for release. CageAfter babies' eyes are open, put nest box into galvanized ½" wire mesh cage (do not use screen as squirrels will chew through it) with same heat source but leave top off nest box. Provide a small branch for climbing. Initial cage size about 12" × 15" × 24". As babies grow and become more active, provide larger cage (at least 24" × 24" × 48" tall) with wire bottom so droppings fall through onto newspaper. Build wood nest box: about 10" × 10" × 14" with 2½" hole in side; also drill small ventilation holes near top. Top should be hinged for easy access to babies and to clean nest; extend top beyond walls to keep rain out when cage is eventually placed outside (see below). Fill box half full with fuzzy socks or rags. Wire a tree limb full length vertically inside cage for climbing. Place toys such as old sock, tennis ball, cardboard center from toilet paper, strip of old sheet hanging down from top of cage to bottom, etc. Attach watering bottle (available from pet shop) to outside of cage (to prevent being chewed) with spout extending through mesh into cage. When your baby is old enough, start moving its cage outdoors in shade for short periods. It will be frightened, so stay with it. Later, hang cage from tree branch and leave outside. Eventually leave cage door open so squirrel can get out (make door for squirrel small enough so a cat could not get in). Squirrel will probably continue to return to cage for food, water, and to sleep. Make certain cage is located where squirrel cannot be ambushed by a cat or dog when leaving cage. Your baby will be dependent on you for food, water, shelter, comfort, and protection until it can establish its own territory and build a nest. Additional NotesBaby squirrels, when hairless, are very difficult to keep alive. Once eyes open they become very attached, affectionate, active, and playful. They love to be close, sleep in a pocket or under a sweater. They need to have indoor trees (branches) to climb. They love to climb all over the human body. They need toys to play with. Best to have two squirrels as playmates, but never place older squirrels (half grown to adult) together unless they have been raised together. They are very territorial and may kill each other. Even when placing baby squirrels beynd 6 weeks of age together, observe for several hours to be certain they are OK together. A screen porch is a wonderful and safe place to play. Once they are released, they may continue to come back to you for many months for safety, comfort, and food. The goal in raising baby wild orphans is to release them back to the wild where they belong, when they are ready. It is cruel and inhumane to keep an adult wild creature in captivity, and also illegal.

    Flying squirrels are basically the same as grey squirrels except that they are strictly nocturnal, and must be allowed to sleep during the day except for feeding.

     Gray Squirrel Diet ChartFormula :        1 Part Esbilac Powder, 1 Part Heavy Whipping Cream or  Multi-Milk , 2 Parts WaterRemember to introduce the baby to formula by starting with dilute formula and building up to full strength formula.  See the section on Initial Stabilization Care. How to feed: Use a 1 cc syringe to feed formula. Wrap the baby in a cloth to keep it warm and secure and hold it in a sitting-up position. Squirrels are good nursers and will quickly adapt to the syringe. A 3 cc syringe may be used for babies that are 6 weeks old or older.Stimulating urine and feces: This should be done for babies whose eyes are closed or just opening. Use a slightly damp cotton ball or tissue to gently stroke the genital area. The baby should urine within a few seconds. Babies may not urinate and produce feces every time but should not go more than 36 hours. Consult AWRC or a veterinarian if this occurs.Self-feeding diet: This diet should be given to squirrels as soon as the eyes have opened. Formula will still be offered as directed in the age and development chart until the squirrel is completely weaned. Also offer a shallow dish of water.90% of diet:      Purina Puppy Chow or Hill’s Canine Growth Science Diet (Dry chunks). These may be soaked in water until soft for squirrels that are 4 to 5 weeks old or for those that are having tooth problems.5% of diet:        Dime to nickel size pieces of the following fruits/vegetables: sweet potatoes, carrots, corn, squash, broccoli, apples, grapes, melons, pears, plum, etc.5% of diet:        Sunflower seeds (squirrels prefer striped sunflower seeds), unsalted nuts such as pecans, acorns, and hickory nuts. Nuts should be cracked until the squirrel reaches 10 weeks of age.           ** A few crickets and mealworms should be offered. Squirrels do eat some insects.** Natural foods – These food items should be included in the self-feeding diet as often as possible. Most are seasonally available only.Fungi – i.e. mushrooms                         Closed Pine ConesTree buds - maple and elm                    Beech nut                                 BlackberriesInsects - such as beetles, worms            Black walnuts                           Hickory nutsGreens – i.e. dandelion greens   Acorns                                    Keeping Babies Wild So They Can Go Back To The WildHundreds of baby gray squirrels are orphaned every year.  As babies they are very cute and will respond to their caregiver with affection. They are still wild animals though. Individuals raising orphaned babies must not treat them as pets. A baby squirrel should be raised with at least one other squirrel. This will aid in helping it revert to its true wild nature after being weaned. You must obtain permission from your county game warden to legally possess any wild animal even for a short period of time. Use good hygiene. Wash your hands after handling the babies and cleaning the cage. Wash bedding and dishes separate from your own. Disinfect bedding and dishes using 1 part bleach to 30 parts water. Allow bedding and dishes to soak for at least 15 minutes then rinse. The information in this paper is brief and intended for raising healthy orphans. If problems develop or you have questions, please contact the Alabama Wildlife Rehabilitation Center.                                                                            Natural History InformationSquirrels belong to the order Rodentia along with many other familiar species such as the chipmunk, the beaver and the muskrat.  The prominent characteristic of rodents is the presence of upper and lower incisors that grow continuously throughout their lifetime.  As a result, a rodent must gnaw on hard objects such as nuts or wood to keep their teeth worn down.  If this is not done, a condition called malocclusion occurs, in which the teeth grow too long and can grow through the cheek or roof of the mouth.  Without treatment, the result is death due to starvationGrey Squirrel Developmental Care ChartEstimated Age                       Newborn – 1 weeks                                                1 – 2 weeks                                             2 – 3 weeks                                            Description                            No fur, eyes closed.                                    Thin shadow of grey fur.                            Thin fur all over, eyes (Pinky.)                                                       Eyes closed, no fur on                                 closed.                                                                      belly. (Frosty.)                                                                           ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________What to feed                          Formula only.                                             Formula only.                                         Formula only.____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________Stimulate                              yes                                                              yes                                                          yes____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________Housing                                 Incubator                                                     Incubator                                                 Incubator____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________Furnishings                           Place in plastic aquarium                            Place in plastic aquarium                        Place in plastic aquarium                                                (with ravel-free bedding)                             (with ravel-free bedding)                         (with ravel-free bedding)                                                and keep in the incubator.                           and keep in the incubator.                       and keep in the incubatorEstimated Age                       3 – 4 weeks                                             4 – 5 weeks                                             5 – 6 weeks                                             Description                            Furry all over, tail thin,                           Furry, eyes beginning                             Eyes fully open, can sit eyes closed.  Lower                                 to open, upper incisors                           up.  Tail thin and canincisors emerging.                                     emerging.                                                 curl. ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________What to feed                          Formula only.                                         Formula, self-feeding diet                        Formula, self-feeding diet,                                                                and water when eyes open.                     water.                       ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________Stimulate                              Yes.                                                         Yes                                                           No, but check bedding for output.________________________________________________________________________________________________________________Housing                                 Incubator                                                 Incubator until eyes                                  Mammal Nursery enclosure.                                                                                                                 open, then Mammal                                                                                                                Nursery enclosure.  ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________Furnishings                           Place in plastic aquarium                        Once in an enclosure,                              Same, but no heating pad (with ravel- free bedding)                        place in plastic aquarium                        unless it’s a single baby and keep in the incubator.                       on side with ravel-free bedding.              or it is unstable.                                                                                                                          Put ½ on heating pad on low.                                                               Estimated Age                       6 – 7 weeks (weaning)                            7 – 8 weeks (weaning)                            8 – 12 weeks                                           Description                            Fully furred, tail beginning                      About half adult size,                             Close to adult size, good to get bushy.  Grasps food,                    bushy tail, good at                                  climbing skills.  Should starting to climb.                                     climbing.                                                  be shy and defensive.________________________________________________________________________________________________________________What to feed                          Formula until weaned,                            Formula until weaned,                            Self-feeding diet, water.self-feeding diet, water.                           self-feeding diet, water.                                                                                           ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________Stimulate                              No.                                                          No.                                                          No.________________________________________________________________________________________________________________Housing                                 Mammal Nursery enclosure.                  Mammal Nursery enclosure                   Sidewalk cage.                                                                                                                until weaned, then move to                                                                                                                sidewalk cage. ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________Furnishings                           Plastic aquarium                                      Once in outside enclosure,                      Same.  Begin scattering (with ravel- free bedding).                       provide nest box and                               supplemental foods toProvide branches for                               branches for climbing.                             encourage foraging.climbing exercise.  We had our Vet check our squirrels and put them on a supplemental vitamin to help boost there growth and released them at 15 weeks in the summer so that they had time to find a home or make a nest   


    Chip and Dale the night we found them

    squirtles7 said | on 08/09/2010

    Hi, some of your squirrel info is really good; however  some of it is drastically wrong and could have devastating effects.  Squirrels are vegetarians and should never be given dog or cat food.  No wonder you are mentioning diarreah. Diarreah can occur at first because of a change from mother's milk to formula, but should clear up on it's own after a few feedings.  I am concerned some people may read some of your information and inadvertently kill a squirrel.  They only eat insects in the most desperate of times, and you should not feed them insects and worms.  Bread and cereal is not natural, and also fills the baby up so it won't eat the good stuff. You must be aware that certain things block calcium, which is absolutely neccessary for them to live. Nuts, fruits and vegetables are what they need after they wean themselves.  I urge you to check out the website "Squirrel Nutrition and Care" by Clarissa Summers.  She has raised several thousand squirrels successfully.  I have raised over 200 with her methods, and have had wonderful success.  We use a simple formula of scalded organic whole milk, with a drop of vitamin E and some organic whole plain yogurt.  This is natural and can't be tampered with.  Esbilac, for instance,has been recalled this year because of problems with the formula and it actually killed squirrels. Please be more careful what you write. Thanks, I know you care and I don't mean this as rude.

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