Assessing whether a baby is orphaned
Very young squirrels will normally sit tight in the drey, so to see any babies not in their drey, especially if they still have their eyes closed, is an immediate red flag. This is also true with any still wobbly on their feet.
If a mum fails to return to babies for several days this can cause them to come out of their drey through hunger and desperation.
Below are a few tips to gauge if a baby is orphaned. If your baby does not fit any of these, that doesnt mean it is not orphaned so dont hesitate to contact us or your nearest squirrel friendly rescue centre if in doubt.
Seeing if Mum Returns
The first thing you can do, especially if you have disturbed or disrupted their drey, for example, taken a tree or branches down, or tiles off a roof, is to put babies as near as you can to where their drey was and step back, but constantly watch to see if mum returns to collect them. Only do this if it is safe to do so, away from predators or extreme weather. Step back for an hour or two for this, DO NOT leave them overnight or where you cannot see them. It is actually quite rare for mum to return and collect the baby. In general, a baby or babies not where they should be means that something has already gone wrong.
A Cold Baby
All squirrels should be about the same temperature as humans, so if you find a baby and its cold then something has gone wrong and it has been on its own a while. Baby squirrels cannot regulate their own temperature, especially when they are not furred, being in their drey and with mum would keep them warm. You need to try and warm the baby up and call your nearest squirrel friendly rescue centre as soon as possible. DO NOT leave a cold baby to see if mum returns and DO NOT feed a cold baby.
Is the Baby Skinny?
A baby should be a good weight, if they dont have any fur you can actually see milk in their stomach (slightly on their left), this would show as a whiteish blob/line, this can help you see if they have recently had milk. If your baby is a little older, you can feel either side of them and if they feel much smaller inbetween their ribs and back legs in comparision to their ribs then they are most likely to be underweight.
Does the Baby have Fleas?
If the baby has fleas then this is a sign to show its been on its own for a while, mum squirrels would groom babies and remove anything like this.
Does the Baby have Fly Strike
If the baby has fly eggs then this is a sign to show its been on its own for a while, flys land on animals that are unwell or not moving much and lay lots of eggs. this only happens if babies are out of the nest for a while. These can cause alot of damage and problems to a squirrel. If you find a baby like this then it is needing rescue.
Is the baby tame
If the baby is seeming tame and approaching people or other animals, like dogs, or following you around. This is common for an orphaned or lost baby squirrel. They do this out of desperation and are asking for help. These are needing rescue.
Babies making noises
Baby squirrels can make lots of different noises.
If you find a baby 'screaming' this is done with its mouth opened wide, and sounds a little like a bird, this is a distress call. If you find a baby, you may be able to find others in the area (its siblings) by listening out for this noise, if you hear it from a tree or attic then there is a baby in distress as this noise is not normal and means there is something wrong.
If you find a baby 'buzzing/purring/grunting' this generally means its asking for food, so is a sign of hunger or abandonment.
If you have found an injured squirrel of any age, whether orphaned or not, it will most likely need rescue. If you are unsure please call your nearest squirrel friendly rescue centre.