It’s important to know that it is now illegal to release Grey Squirrels into the wild or to care for them without a license. For this reason, rescue places are extremely limited so every effort should be made to leave uninjured squirrels in the wild. Where help is needed, it’s vital to find a rescue still able to help squirrels. Unlicensed organisations such as vets, R/SSPCA, and any unlicensed wildlife rescues are legally obliged to put any Grey Squirrels brought to them to sleep.
Squirrels breed twice a year, once in March/April and again August/September. At these times it’s common for babies to be found out of the nest. This can happen for various reasons such as
• cat or other predator attack
• being dropped when Mum was moving them between nests
• high winds or poorly secured nest
• nest destroyed by tree work
• older babies wandering from the nest if they get hungry or fall while playing/exploring
If the baby is sick or injured #
If the baby squirrel has been caught by a cat or has any visible wounds it will need help from a wildlife rescue. The same is true if the baby is noticeably thin, weak, or dehydrated, or has fly eggs (which look like yellow grains of rice) on their body. In these cases please contact us via helpwildlife.co.uk/helpdesk and our volunteers will help you to find a rescue able to care for squirrels.
If the baby is healthy and uninjured #
It is always important not to take baby animals from the wild unless necessary but, with Grey Squirrels, this is extra important due to their legal status which means rescue spaces are very limited. Every effort must be made to reunite the baby with the mother. Squirrels are excellent parents and usually have a backup nest on standby. A Mum separated from her babies will usually return and move them to the other nest given time to do so.
Start by preparing a small cardboard box or basket. The box should be top (not front) opening and not too tall or the mother will be reluctant to fetch the baby from it. If needs be cut the sides down so it’s just tall enough to contain the baby.
Fill a hot water bottle, wrap it in a towel and place it in the box. Put the baby in on top of the wrapped hot water bottle. If you don’t have a hot water bottle you can soak a washcloth in hot water and put this in a sealed ziploc bag. Add some natural materials to the box such as leaves, twigs, grass etc for baby to burrow in and to help counteract the human smell of the towel and bottle. Mum may be reluctant to come to the box or take the baby if there’s too much human scent around.
Place the box as close to where the nest is or you suspect it to be as possible. Ideally, suspending the box from a low tree branch or affixing it a little way up the trunk will help to keep baby safe from cats and other predators.
Don’t try to feed the baby or put any food in the box with them. Baby squirrels need a specialist formula and feeding them safely is a skilled task – the wrong food or any feed given in the wrong way can be fatal. Putting food in the box with them could attract attention from non-related squirrels or predators and lead to the baby being harmed.
Leave the area so Mum feels safe to return but keep watch from a distance so you can intervene if there’s a problem such as the baby leaving the box or a predator threatening them. It can help to play baby squirrel distress noises to attract Mum back to the area. There are plenty of videos of this on YouTube – there’s a good one at https://youtu.be/rxr53i2lI8s. We suggest playing this every half an hour or so (more often may attract the attention of predators).
Wait until it’s dark to see if Mum returns. If it’s dark, nearly dark or raining heavily when you find the baby, take them indoors, keep them warm (refreshing the hot water bottle as needed), and try to reunite them in the morning/when the rain stops. Allow at least four hours of daylight for Mum to return and then, if there’s no sign of her, get in touch and we’ll help you to find a suitable rescue.