"Daddy! We found a baby squirrel and I’m sure it’s mom abandondeded it and if we don’t do something it will die!"
Pit bull and baby squirrel
Gwen was intrigued by the baby squirrel. Photo by Dr. Tony Johnson/VIN
Sorry – got distracted for a second.
Where were we?
So, against my better judgment, my family played foster fam to a baby squirrel a few weeks ago.
The weather was nice, so we sent the kids out into the world. They came back with a baby squirrel. I regret free-range parenting and have gotten all of my kids five iPads apiece now.
Here is a summary of the convo:
8-year-old daughter (8YOD): “Daddy! Daddy! We found a baby squirrel and I’m sure it’s mom abandondeded it and if we don’t do something it will die and we have to save it and feed it and then we can give it to Mary who is a licensed squirrel rehabber so you don’t go to federal rodent prison for unauthorized squirrel-saving and also squirrel murder WHICH WILL TOTALLY HAPPEN IF IT DIES.”
8YOD (face turning purple): “But DADDY! I will turn you over to the squirrel-thorities!”
Me: “You should put it back where you found it. The mom is probably just introducing it to the world, and she’ll come back for it. Plus, there’s no such thing as a squirrel-thority. You made that up.”
2 hours pass.
8YOD: “Ha! I watched the WHOLE time and no squirrel momma ever came back. And now she’s cold and hangry!”
8YOD stomps over to ask my wife, a notorious softy. Why she didn’t directly ask my wife first is unknown to me, as 8YOD knew I would say no. She was probably proud that she had made up the word “squirrel-thority” and wanted to use it on me. She can be cruel like that.
8YOD: “Mommy there’s a…”
Wife: “OK, fine. I’ll get the squirrel formula.”
The wee squirrel baby was actually kinda cute, in a baby Yoda sort of way, and grew fat and strong under the care of my veterinarian wife and our daughter. Our insane friend Mary, who really is an actual card-carrying wildlife rehabber, helped us along our squirrel journey to make sure that Debbie was living her best life. (Mmm-hmmm. That’s right. They named it. After our crazy butterfly-raising friend. I am realizing we have a lot of crazy friends.) My wife and I were planning a trip to the city where Mary lives to give some lectures, so Mary helped us close the 2-week gap before we’d see her by texting advice and giving us the occasional phone call.
Feeding was around the clock and I had flashbacks of my three children in their early weeks. Luckily, no diapers were involved.
Our two cats and three dogs were quite interested in this new (temporary) furry member of our household. The birds just flew around, oblivious. I saw murder in the cats' eyes, but our pitbull Gwen seemed to want to nuzzle Debbie and share a cuddle (we were ready, of course, to snatch Debbie away if curiosity turned to hunger). So, we spent many a night watching TV, feeding Debbie and cuddling with Gwen. Netflix and Squirrel, I guess.
Squirrel baby and Magic Nipple
The baby squirrel was fed using a Magic Nipple. Photo by Dr. Tony Johnson/VIN
ACTUAL BABY SQUIRREL INFO TO FOLLOW
Remember – It is illegal to rehab wildlife by yourself in most areas. This info is to get the squirrel through to the point that you can get it to a proper rehab facility. (In my head, Amy Winehouse was singing Rehab as I wrote this):
- Give the mom 2 hours to come back if you find a squirrel. If the squirrel is cold or listless, you may need to move fast once the 2 hours is up (or not wait at all).
- If they are really listless, you may need to give them some sugar water or Pedialyte to treat hypoglycemia and dehydration.
- Use a syringe, not an eyedropper, if possible.
- I wish I was making this up: The best device to feed an orphan squirrel is called the Miracle Nipple. Maybe don’t Google it.
- If you can get Esbilac (puppy milk replacer) at a pet supply store, use that to feed.
- Don’t feed cow’s milk. No, no, no.
- Feed every 2-4 hours until you can get to Rehab.
- Keep them warm and in a box, and away from pets and children. Do not overheat them.
- Get it to Rehab. Go, Go, Go.
The night before we were going to drop her off, we were having dinner and Debbie’s cage was at the far end of the dining room table. (Debbie was never physically far from us, since she required frequent feedings and often had to be rescued from the intense interest of our cats and dogs.) My wife and I raised our wine glasses to Debbie and wished her a long and happy life, devoid of cats, cars and all other manner of ways in which squirrels meet their fate. Debbie responded by hiking her nether regions up to the cage bars and unleashing a stream of pee onto the dining room table, narrowly missing my wife’s plate of scampi.
“You’re welcome, Debbie,” was all she said.
When the appointed hour rolled around, we packed up Debbie and headed to a not-too-distant city to deliver our little bundle of joy to Crazy Mary’s Squirrel Rehab Emporium and Spatula Showroom.
So, all was well and good. For the next few weeks we got pictures of Debbie cavorting in Mary’s backyard squirrel sanctuary before Mary released her into the wild.
Until one day my daughter came in from outside, after breaking all five of her iPads.
She was holding a box.
“What’s in the box?” I shrieked like Brad Pitt at the end of Se7en.
8YOD: “It’s a baby hummingbird and I WILL CALL THE HUMMINGBIRD SQUAD!”
VIN News Service commentaries are opinion pieces presenting insights, personal experiences and/or perspectives on topical issues by members of the veterinary community. To submit a commentary for consideration, email email@example.com.