If you've found an orphaned newborn squirrel and are not near a wildlife rehabilitation sanctuary, your work is cut out for you. These cute little guys are a handful. Your chances of saving the life of a neonate squirrel without a mother are pretty slim, according to David Hitzig, executive director of Busch Wildlife Sanctuary in South Florida. That doesn't mean you can't try.
First Things First
Before you attempt to feed a newborn squirrel, you must ensure several things if your hard work is going to have any chance of paying off. Be sure the mother is not around and that the squirrel is truly orphaned. Once you're sure, warm the baby immediately by wrapping him in a soft cloth and holding him against your body. Baby animals don't generate their own body heat, so getting his core temperature up is imperative. Check for injuries; dip the squirrel gently in a warm bath if necessary.
Whether the newborn squirrel is too weak to sustain life is a valid concern, but a baby squirrel cannot digest the proteins and solids in milk unless the baby is well hydrated. Purchase a supply of unflavored Pedialyte at any drug or grocery store. This product contains all the electrolytes and hydrating properties a baby squirrel's body requires. If you can't acquire Pedialyte, make your own solution by combining a half-teaspoon of salt and 1 1/2 tablespoons of sugar with 2 cups of warm water. This is just a temporary fix until you can get Pedialyte.
Using a syringe or a baby animal nursing bottle, gently administer the hydration solution into the baby's mouth. Be very careful and go slowly. After about two hours, see if you can get the baby to urinate. You should see some light yellow urine when you stimulate the squirrel's genitals with a warm, moist piece of terrycloth or a cotton ball. Once the baby is producing urine, you can move on to solid food.
A Squirrel's Food Pyramid
A newborn squirrel needs mother's milk to survive. It contains everything a baby animal needs to grow fast, strong and with a healthy immune system. To substitute mother's milk, purchase puppy milk replacement formula. Never use milk sold for human consumption, including soy milk. If you use anything but puppy or wildlife milk replacer, you risk giving the baby diarrhea, and you're back to the dehydration problem with a big mess on your hands.
If the baby squirrel has survived the bottle-feeding stage and you are switching him over to solid food, it's critical to find the right formula. Before you release the squirrel back into the wild, feed him rodent blocks and pellets, then move on to fruits, nuts and seeds.
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Michelle A. Rivera is the author of many books and articles. She attended the University of Missouri Animal Cruelty School and is certified with the Florida Animal Control Association. She is the executive director of her own nonprofit, Animals 101, Inc. Rivera is an animal-assisted therapist, humane educator, former shelter manager, rescue volunteer coordinator, dog trainer and veterinary technician.