Most vets are squirrel loving people and are happy to help them. However as in every profession that requires dedication it happens that people choosing it are not only without dedication but also forget about their pledge to treat any animal in distress (Guide to Professional Conduct Edition 2002). We have received disturbing news that some vets use euthanasia as the only "treatment" for squirrels – often without even informing the person who brought the animal for treatment – that's why if you bring an injured squirrel (or baby squirrel) to a vet make sure first that they will treat it and not euthanise regardless of its condition.
If you found a baby squirrel
If you found a baby squirrel that for example fell out of the nest the most important thing is to assess its condition. Without touching examine it for visible injuries (large wounds that would not heal on their own) that require rehabilitator or vet intervention.
If it is necessary to hold the animal remember about the rules of handling wild animals. Use gloves to protect yourself form injury (or protect your hands in some other way, for the sake of wild animals and your own).
If the baby doesn't have large wounds, doesn't show signs of bone fractures and doesn't look like it's starving wrap it in a blanket, piece of cloth, towel (anything to keep it warm – babies are extremely sensitive to drop in temperature) and it you don't see any predators around (big birds, cats, dogs, etc.) that could pose a threat to the baby move away 30-40 metres – keeping an eye on the area where you left the little one – giving the mother a chance to take her baby back.
In the meantime you can contact – always watching from a distance of about 30 metres checking if the baby is not in danger from predators – a licenced rehabilitator who in the situation when squirrel mother won't find the baby will take over from you the care for the orphaned baby.
However if after a long time (over one hour, and ideally two) mother squirrel doesn't show nearby it is necessary to care for the baby (check if you can hear sounds of other squirrels in the area, maybe their mother is dead and they are starving) In that case an urgent intervention of a specialised animal welfare organisation is needed.
After bringing the baby home keep it warm (drop in temperature can be fatal to the baby). Don't use any hair dryers etc. to warm the baby "quickly". Just turn on the heating in the house, wrap the animal in blanket and leave 1.5-2 m from radiator or another heat source. If you have pets and / or small kids – remember to limit their access during this time to the room where the baby squirrel is. Then contact a licenced squirrel rehabilitator (to hand the squirrel over).
Until you hand over the baby squirrel to the rehabilitator remember to keep it warm.
If it happens that the rehabilitator is not able to collect/take in the baby squirrel in a few hours it may be necessary to feed the baby – consult this first with the rehabilitator giving them the time since you noticed the animal.
If the squirrel will be handed over to the rehabilitator on the following day you can try once again – after consultation with a licenced squirrel rehabilitator – to return the baby to its mother. Wrap the fed baby in a warm blanket (so that the head is visible) and go to the place where you found it. If you don't see any predators nearby (cats, dogs, big birds, etc.) leave the squirrel (in the blanket) where it was found and move away at least 30 metres where you can watch if the mother comes back and takes the baby. This simple procedure – after consultation with a licenced squirrel rehabilitator – can be repeated (if it's possible) a few times – with safety in mind – because even rehabilitators agree that their own mother will take better and more natural care of the baby than even the most experienced rehabilitator.
ICSRS would like to thank Sigrid Warren for allowing her photo to be used in the above article.