As you are likely aware, there are two species of squirrel living in the UK – the native Red Squirrel and the introduced Grey. The advice below primarily relates to Grey Squirrels as this is by far the more likely species you will encounter.
Grey Squirrels are sometimes considered vermin but we believe that every animal has the same right to help when needed. Unfortunately, there are legal complications surrounding Grey Squirrels which mean it is illegal to help them without a license. As a result many organisations are forced to euthanase any Grey Squirrel casualty. If you need help with a Grey Squirrel, please get in touch for assistance with finding a rescue which is able to help them.
You also need to be aware that squirrels can give a very bad bite when scared so need to be handled with extreme caution.
When to rescue #
A squirrel caught by a cat
The squirrel must receive antibiotic treatment within a few hours or the bacteria on the cats teeth may cause them to develop fatal septicaemia.
A squirrel caught by a dog or hit by a car
The squirrel must be assessed for injuries and treated for shock.
A squirrel with a serious injury
Given the legal situation, a mild injury such as a skin wound or sprain may be best left to heal in the wild. But if the squirrel has a major injury such as a broken limb or damaged eye, they will are likely to need help.
A squirrel with overgrown teeth
Like all rodents, squirrels teeth grow continuously. Whilst eating does wear them down, the main way they’re kept in check is by grinding against each other. If a squirrel loses a tooth or has a head injury which causes the teeth to become misaligned, this can cause the teeth to become overgrown. The teeth can be trimmed but the problem is likely to recur. Unless a rare sanctuary place can be found and the squirrel adapts well to captivity, sadly the kindest option in these cases is usually to trap the squirrel and end their suffering.
When to take other action #
A baby squirrel out of the nest
It is normal for squirrel mothers to spend the day away from the babies and sometimes the youngsters will get bored and hungry and go for a wander. Mum will usually round them up when she returns. You can read our guide to reuniting them with Mum here.
A squirrel with bald patches and/or minor skin wounds
Like foxes, squirrels can suffer with sarcoptic mange which causes itching, leading to loss of fur and, in advanced cases, skin damage. This can be treated with a remedy added to their food. This article contains sources of the treatment (listed as a fox mange remedy but it works for squirrels too).
When to leave alone #
An adult or juvenile squirrel approaching people for food
This is quite common, especially in parks where they are used to being fed by people. The squirrel may even climb up your leg. This it is nothing to worry about as long as the squirrel appears healthy, although it shouldn’t be encouraged.
A squirrel which appears ‘frozen’ or is making a squawking noise
Often when spooked, squirrels will climb up high and stay there for many hours until they feel safe. Usually they will come down at dusk. Intervening here is likely to do more harm than good by scaring the squirrel into jumping from a height.