Baby squirrels rescued after mom found dead

By Joanna Fitzgerald | Director of the von Arx Wildlife Hospital

Two grey squirrels among the 53 animals admitted to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida this past week.

An adult female squirrel was found dead in a neighborhood and residents could hear the distress calls of her orphaned baby squirrels from their nest. The nest was thirty feet up in a tree making it too high to climb and retrieve the orphans.

Knowing the babies would fall out of the nest, hospital staff advised the homeowners to place a blanket under the tree to cushion the impact. One baby fell and was immediately brought to the hospital for care. The second baby fell later that night and was brought to the hospital the following morning.

Both babies were uninjured but were dehydrated and weak. After rehydrating with electrolytes, the babies were offered a dilute squirrel milk replacement formula. The two squirrels are thriving and have begun to eat solid food along with the formula feedings staff is providing several times during the day and night.

How You Can Help

It is breeding and nesting season for many species of mammals in our area. Squirrels, rabbits, raccoons and Virginia opossums are all raising their offspring. To avoid injuring or displacing animals from their nests, please check any trees before trimming or removal. If you hire a tree service, ask them to check the trees for active nests before doing any work.

Avoiding trees containing active nests allows the mother squirrel or raccoon the time needed to raise her babies. If a nest is disturbed or destroyed, call the wildlife hospital for immediate assistance. Although it takes some effort, there is always the chance uninjured babies can be successfully re-nested so the mother can continue to care for her litter.

Rabbits nest in yards, flower beds and even on school playgrounds. If you repeatedly see a rabbit in the same location, check that area for an active nest before mowing or letting pets out.

Since rabbits are active at dawn and dusk and only return to the nest to feed their babies twice a day, it is usually dark outside when a mother rabbit returns to care for her babies. This routine leaves little chance anyone will actually see a mother rabbit at her nest and often causes people to mistakenly conclude baby rabbits are orphaned when, in fact, they are fine.

Understanding natural animal behaviors can help people successfully coexist with wildlife. If you find a rabbit nest call the hospital before taking action. Hospital staff will determine the appropriate course of action.

Recent Releases — 25 Animals Returned Home

  • 7 eastern cottontails
  • 1 mourning dove
  • 1 pied-billed grebe
  • 1 anhinga
  • 2 double-crested cormorants
  • 1 Cooper’s hawk
  • 1 eastern mud turtle
  • 1 royal tern
  • 1 grey squirrel
  • 3 brown pelicans
  • 1 yellow-bellied turtle
  • 1 eastern screech owl
  • 1 Virginia opossum
  • 3 raccoons

Opportunities to Help

Please visit the Conservancy website at www.conservancy.org to view all of the amazing volunteer opportunities at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. Volunteers are needed more than ever during our incredibly busy summer season. Your volunteer time, memberships and donations are vital in helping us continue our work to protect Southwest Florida’s water, land, wildlife and future.

Joanna Fitzgerald is director of the von Arx Wildlife Hospital at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. Call 239–262–2273 or see conservancy.org.