Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Rescuing Baby Squirrels

Sorry photos taken with my crappy cell phone camera!
We get all manner of strange requests at the pet store where I work part-time, but yesterday's was perhaps one of the strangest to date. A woman and her two kids dropped by to ask if we knew what to feed three baby squirrels she had just rescued from her yard. Luckily, for her, there were two of us at the store who know the laws concerning wildlife rehabilitation. And Lila, one of my coworkers, happens to be best friends with one of the area licenced rehabers.

Though we both considered the merits of explaining that it was probably best she leave the babies where she found them, the weather here sort of shot that option all to hell.  Often if you leave baby wildlife alone for a period of time, the mother will do her own rescuing, and trust me, a wild mother is a much better option for a wild animal than we are. However, we had torrential rains and tornado warnings all over town yesterday, and there were also several dogs involved in this scenario. So, no leaving the babies for mama. It was decided that Lila would shuttle the babies to her friend's rehab center on her way home, and thus we ended up putting together a traveling box for baby squirrels. The lady who found the babies, actually, did a great job, filling old socks with rice and heating them up in the microwave to create a nice warm bed for babies in an old shoe box.

Because they are already about five-six weeks old, they stand a good chance of surviving to be re-released again. Still, raising them won't be easy by a long-shot, and trust me, the fun wears off at about day two of hourly feeds and little to no sleep. Plus, finding the right formula to feed a wild animal is tricky at best. Though I'm guessing the kids were a bit disappointed to be handing these squirrel babies off to someone else, I'm sure mom was relieved for this reason and more. She had already been looking up the laws, and was beginning to question if she was legally allowed to keep and raise these babies herself. Good thinking on her part! Many wouldn't even worry, assuming squirrels are simply a nuisance species. And that's where they would be wrong. Squirrels don't make the list of nuisance species not covered by the wildlife protection laws in Virginia, but coyotes do. Go figure. You want to raise a coyote, be my guest, though you still need a permit to release said species back into the wild. But, don't get me started on the way we treat coyotes around here. That's a whole other rant.

If you want to rehab a squirrel, along with most of our Virginia native wildlife, you need  several permits and a license to rehabilitate. These things are not simple papers you can run over to the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries to file, either. It takes a good bit of planning, some classes, a sponsor, and a care facility that passes inspection. You can check out the steps to gain a license in the state of Virginia here. So, the moral to this story is if you find wildlife that is stranded, AFTER you have given the wild mother a safe and ample chance to rescue her own young, preferably before you interfere, you can fairly easily find out what to do. Contact the Wildlife Center of Virginia. They keep a list of the local rehabers throughout our state and, they will be happy to give you advice and the best number to contact for help.

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