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Squirrels from the Sky - What to DoPosted 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!
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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.