Blog Archive March 2008

Baby Squirrels - Oh My!

Posted on 5 March 2008 by Dawn Keller

If I'm being honest, it's the call I dread every year....the first baby squirrel call. Now, please don't misunderstand, I really like squirrels as a species - I even like raising baby squirrels (and, if I say so myself, we're really good at it); however, raising baby squirrels is a tireless endeavor. Raising baby squirrels effectively signals the end to any sleep over 1-1/2 hours at a time.

So every year, I place a bet with myself about the first baby squirrel call of the year. I usually hope for mid-March. This year, with the extremely cold weather, I thought I had a good chance. I picked March 15th. Darn if I wasn't wrong!

So MARCH 1ST the first pinkie squirrel call came in. Now fortunate for me, the lady found them in the hood of her EXTRA car and is willing to leave them there until a warm day (very nice lady). We've instructed her regarding how to proceed so that, hopefully, Mom squirrel will move the babies to a new nest. Bottom line, I'm still getting more than 1-1/2 hours of sleep at a time. Crisis averted.

But this whole episode prompts me to address what to do if you find a baby squirrel that has fallen out of the nest. First, let me say, NEVER feed it or give it water. The leading cause of death in baby squirrels (and baby birds for that matter) at Flint Creek Wildlife is when well-intentioned rescuers attempt to feed or give water the the squirrel (or bird). Despite best efforts, due to lack of training, food or water gets into the animal's lungs, causing aspiration pneumonia. The animal almost inevitably dies.

My motto is "one drop of water/milk/food isn't enough to help but it is ABSOLUTELY enough to kill."

I know you all think that a baby squirrel cannot go without food or water very long, but you do have a reasonable amount of time. You can't leave any animals for days without food or water, but you do have up to 24 hours (in general and if the animal is in good condition when found) to get the animal to a rehabilitator...of course, the sooner the better the chances of survival.

On that note, we seldom see animals that die because the rescuer failed to get help soon enough and didn't feed (starvation and dehydration) while we see animals all the time that die because the rescuer did give food or water.

Lack of food or water won't kill a baby squirrel as quickly as lack of heat. You must provide supplemental heat to any baby squirrel you find that isn't yet fully furred. Pink squirrels, gray squirrels without their fur and lightly furred squirrels cannot thermoregulate and require supplemental heat. Until you get the animal to a licensed rehabilitator, please provide supplemental heat (details follow).

Okay, so if you find a baby squirrel, please do the following:

1) If the animal is bleeding, has been attacked by an animal, is cold, is being swarmed by flies or has any bugs crawling on it, immediately follow the rescue instructions below and call a licensed wildlife rehabilitator.
2) If the animal is warm without any signs of injury and isn't in imminent danger, leave the animal where you found it and immediately call a licensed wildlife rehabilitator.

Rescue Instructions (only when intervention is required)

  1. Place fleece or other soft bedding (fabric) in a small cardboard or tissue box. The bedding should be snug but not tight and should cover all sides of the baby to help it stay warm and to avoid drafts. Do not use cotton balls, string or other materials that might result in suffocation or entanglement.
  2. Place the box on a heating pad set on low. Never set the heating pad higher than the low setting. If the squirrel is able to move on its own and the box is big enough, place only half of the box on the heating pad so that the squirrel can get on or off the heating pad as needed. If you don't have a heating pad, you may warm a Snuggle Safe (heat disc) or a rice bag, but make sure that there are layers of toweling between the baby and any heated object to avoid burns.
  3. Keep the box/baby out of drafts and in a warm room of your home.
  4. Get the animal to a licensed wildlife rehabilitation center as quickly as possible.

Flint Creek Wildlife treats many baby squirrels each year. Feel free to call us if you need help, or if you aren't sure whether intervention is necessary. If we aren't able to help you for any reason, we will gladly help you find a licensed wildlife rehabilitator who can help.

Thanks for caring,


Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation Launches Internship Program

Posted on 5 March 2008 by Dawn Keller

Calling all pre-vet, wildlife conservation and related students. Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation just launched its internship program!

Join us for a unique opportunity to learn about wildlife rehabilitation, animal handling, and the natural history of wildlife species that are either year-round residents of Illinois or migrants passing through the area on their twice-annual journey. Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation, the largest privately-funded wildlife rehabilitation center in the Chicago area, treats over 2,500 wild animals each year ranging from predator species like hawks, owls, falcons, fox and coyote to the tiniest birds like hummingbirds and warblers to big birds like herons and pelicans.

We are offering full-time and part-time positions. Part-time positions are available at both our downtown Chicago and suburban Barrington locations. Full-time positions include learning experiences at both locations.

Get ahead of other vet school applicants by broadening your experience to include wildlife while helping to save the lives of our wild neighbors. Visit the internship page on our website at for more information. We look forward to hearing from you.

Help Stop the Killing Of Protected Raptors

Posted on 1 March 2008 by Dawn Keller

On February 28, 2008 the National Audubon Society issued an Action Alert to request that individuals contact their U.S. House Representatives to co-sponsor HR 4093, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act Penalty and Enforcement Act of 2007 to ensure raptors and other migratory birds are given adequate protection. Here is an excerpt from the Audubon's Action Alert:

Dear Audubon Advocate,

Last spring, citizens across the country were appalled to learn that thousands of protected raptors such as Cooper's Hawks, Peregrine Falcons, and Red-tailed Hawks had been killed in Oregon, California and Texas.

The raptors were killed by hobbyists who breed pigeons to carry a genetic trait that causes them to stop flying and tumble in the air before righting themselves and carrying on. These "roller pigeons" are flown in competitions and scored by judges who rate the birds on the quality of the "roll" and other factors. Of course, the pigeon rolling through the air looks like crippled and vulnerable prey to a hawk, falcon, or other bird of prey. Many of these pigeon enthusiasts have been routinely killing raptors in an attempt to protect their roller pigeons.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that as many as 2,000 to 3,000 raptors were being killed on the West Coast each year using methods including poisoning, beating birds to death with clubs, and suffocation in plastic bags. Even more troubling is the fact that the thirteen men charged with these crimes received little more than a slap on the wrist after pleading guilty. Currently, killing a protected bird is a Class B Misdemeanor under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which puts suffocating a Peregrine Falcon in the same category as unauthorized use of the image of Smokey Bear.

Click here to see the Audubon's Action Alert

Please visit the Audubon Action Site and contact your representative on this extremely critical legislation. The Action Alert has a tell-a-friend link so please spread the word so that we can get Congress to provide an appropriate level of protection for our Raptors and Migratory Birds.