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Squirrels from the Sky - What to Do

Posted Sunday, September 2, 2012, at 8:29 AM

Squirrels - you either love 'em or hate 'em. In our part of this world we have Eastern gray squirrels and fox squirrels. The larger fox squirrels, so named because of their red coloring, are found in more rural areas. Regardless of the type, the rules remain the same.

It's prime baby season for squirrels, due to the plentiful food sources God provides them in the fall. Squirrels have a smaller baby season in the spring as well.

This is also the time when people find baby squirrels on the ground - caused by wind gusts, tree branches breaking, and tree trimming.

If you find a baby squirrel or squirrels (the average nest size is 3-5 babies), don't panic! Also, don't fall in love - these babies are cute, but they are wild animals. It is ILLEGAL in Tennessee to keep wild animals without a proper permit - and it doesn't matter if you are only trying to help. You are only allowed to harbor a wild animal long enough to get it to a licensed wildlife rehabilitator.

The first commandment that applies is to try to reunite the babies with their mother. Find a container that can be placed back on the tree you think they fell from. The best solution is a bucket that you can nail to the tree. Line the container with a rag or two and attach it to the tree as high as you can. It is not necessary to climb the tree or call the Fire Department! Leave them alone for 24 hours. If the mother is alive, she will retrieve them and move them.

Another commandment for all wildlife is that mothers do not abandon their babies unless the baby is sick or deformed and will not live. It does not matter if you touch it, the mother will be looking for it. Humans are the only animals who thoughtfully abandon their babies.

After 24 hours, check the babies. If they are warm and active - leave them. Continue to monitor them periodically. If they feel cold or become sluggish, it is time for the next step. Bring them inside and warm them. DO NOT TRY TO FEED THEM! Wild animals are not cows or dogs or cats or goats.......and the milk from those species is not good for them.

It is now time to place those babies with someone who is licensed and has the knowledge to raise and place them back in the wild. Call the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency at 1-800-624-7406 and ask for the phone number of the closest wildlife rehabilitator who can accept squirrels.

Another commandment - wild animals will bite! Use gloves! Even babies will bite if they are starving. Wash your hands. Some wild animals carry diseases that can be transmitted to people. (More on this in the future). Remember, this is not a science project or a pet for your child! If you follow the guidelines, you will be a hero!

Showing comments in chronological order
[Show most recent comments first]

Good article Vicky.

-- Posted by cherokee2 on Sun, Sep 2, 2012, at 11:53 AM

Excellent Vicky. I hope folks will write to you when they run across something similar.

I am afraid we probably violated the law when we helped a baby blue jay that was out of its' nest after a storm. How do you try to reunite a bird?

I can see a squirrel has the ability to carry the young but a bird?

The ending of the story was good for the blue jay. He/she eventually was released, stayed around the house for a few weeks, occasionally swooping down to sit on our daughter's head or shoulder then went to live its own life.

-- Posted by stevemills on Mon, Sep 3, 2012, at 10:16 PM

Thank you for your kind words. I really do hope that my blog will help people out. I don't get a lot of comments, so I can't judge if people are reading or not.

Baby birds are another story and I plan to cover what to do with them in a separate blog. A lot of it depends on the age of the baby, what type of bird, and the circumstances.

The laws are different regarding birds as they are protected by state law - but also federal law - except for the non-native species we have here.

-- Posted by wildwoman on Tue, Sep 4, 2012, at 8:35 AM

FEDERAL! Oops, I may want to stay quiet from now on. Hopefully there is a statute if limitations, it has been probably 17+ years ago?

Yesterday was a bad day for a squirrel on Hwy 82 and I HATE to say I am the cause. It bothered me immensely then and it will bother me for the rest of my life.

If it sounds over dramatic, I can still remember the last one I hit at dusk on a diversion of highway I-81 while it was being built around Wytheville, VA, back in !964-65. I could not avoid either one, but the memory remains.

Since Deb and I both stop for turtles, move them (even snapping turtles) and do all we can to avoid killing anything (even snakes) we were emphatic in teaching our daughter that HER safety comes first while driving and sometimes it just cannot be avoided.

I still hurts though, and is the least we can do to respect our Lord's creatures. If we hurt them, we try to get them care or at least be sure they are off the highway.

Back in my youth I earned extra money by trapping. My humanity eventually stopped that but I let many animals go that I knew had little value, including skunks.

I stopped morning traffic on a busy road to let one of my skunks get across with his/her gimpy foot. That is where it wanted to go and I was not about to try to divert it any more than I had.

Getting a live skunk out of a foot trap is a story by itself. I never took a direct hit but didn't have to, and everyone on the school bus knew I had met a skunk that day.

-- Posted by stevemills on Thu, Sep 6, 2012, at 8:21 AM

Oh, regarding comments. Many more read than respond. Once you get comfortable with that, you can ramble until you heart is content.

I occasionally get feedback from overseas, Texas, Wisconsin, Florida, Alabama and other sites unknown. Beauty of the World Wide Web and Google's interest in blogs.

Many locals will come up to me and comment about something, some will be referred to me by someone who read a blog, you'll start getting feedback from your everyday interaction with people.

Last week one of our Wartrace friends said she was approached during the Wartrace Yard Sale and asked if she wasn't friends with me and then commented about something, so THEY READ.

-- Posted by stevemills on Thu, Sep 6, 2012, at 8:30 AM

I know what you mean about how it hurts to hit an animal. I have hit a couple of birds and I never forget those either. I think I am the only rabid Republican with an animal bleeding heart!

I lost a donor once because of campaign sticker on my car....

-- Posted by wildwoman on Thu, Sep 6, 2012, at 5:18 PM

Well, you may not be the only one but I am more of a RI. What they are giving their money for, should be more important than personal politics but...I hope they continued to support something.

-- Posted by stevemills on Thu, Sep 6, 2012, at 8:55 PM

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Vicky Carder is a Shelbyville native. In 1991 she founded Walden's Puddle Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Nashville. There she served as Executive Director for more than 12 years. The Center is the largest wildlife hospital in Middle Tennessee. She has published in wildlife national and international journals. Now she wants to share her knowledge of native wildlife and some of the experiences she had while working with wildlife.
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