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Eastern Gray Squirrels
Baby Squirrels!
by Diannek

Note from the editor: If you find baby squirrels like these outside their nest, there are several things you can do. The mother may be close by and waiting for an opportunity to get them back into the nest. So it's best to watch them from a distance to see if she rescues them herself. If she doesn't come for them and they are in danger, place them in a shoebox lined with soft t-shirts, and call your local wildlife center. If you can't find their address, call your local humane society and they'll help you locate them. In most states, squirrels are environmentally "protected", which means that it's against the law for private citizens to care for them, make pets of them or harm them in any way. Find help for them, they need it! 

My husband and I have been volunteering at our local wildlife rehabilitation center (check it out: Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley). Spring is the busiest time there because that's baby season. The center takes in animals that have been injured or separated from their moms and would not survive in the wild without human intervention. The center takes care of literally thousands of wild baby birds every year and hundreds of baby squirrels as well. The volunteers feed them, clean their cages and nurse them back to health, at which time they are released back into nature with our very best wishes for a long and prolific life. 

Most of the birds are cared for at the center, but the squirrel babies are taken care of by home-care volunteers. Dale and I tried our hand at being squirrel parents. The photo above is our first squirrel family, three Eastern Gray squirrels. We got them when they were still very young, their eyes had not yet opened. The next week we added two more black squirrels (which are also Eastern Grays with dark pigmentation) to our family.

Eastern Gray nursing from a syringe
We fed them using a 6 cc. syringe with a nipple attached. They caught on easily and before long, they seemed to grow up before our very eyes. When we first got them we had to feed them every 3 hours during the daytime. Eventually we decreased the number of feedings as they were able to eat more food.
two are better than one
Baby squirrels are simply adorable. Here are two of the pleasant little rodents, still no more than a small handful. We were cautioned not to become too friendly with them. The idea is to nurse them and take care of them until they can be released, and not to make pets out of them. So we didn't name them, except to be able to identify one from the other. 
Eastern gray growing up
Eventually the little blighters became very familiar with the syringe. Some of them could even take it out of our hands and tip it up to drain out the last drops. If you look closely at the left side of this photo, you can see the next squirrel in line awaiting his turn. They would let us handle them during feeding time. Otherwise, they would jump and scatter and even scold us as we cleaned their cage. 

They slept in a pouch made of a fabric that looked like fake black animal fur. They loved that little pouch and all five of them would curl up together inside it, especially after a hardy meal.

squirrel platter
After about a month they were ready to begin the weaning process. At this point we were supposed to introduce real food to them. Here's a dishful that Dale prepared for them. It consists of cauliflower, sliced apples, halved green grapes, celery and PEANUTS! They love peanuts, walnuts and almonds the best, but we were supposed to feed them food that they might find in the wild. I called this platter of food the "Squirrel cruise ship" entree. They didn't know how lucky they were.
Saying good-bye to the children
Here they are on their last day with us. They now need a bigger cage. Eventually they'll go back to the center for a few more weeks of care at their squirrel aviary and then from there they will be released, usually somewhere close to the place where they were first found.

We enjoyed taking care of the little rodents, even though they put a serious crimp in our social life during their first month with us. It was a pleasure to see them grow and thrive. We hope they find a good home in an oak tree, and don't feel the need to run into the street or fall off the telephone wires in their mature years.

FYI: We volunteer at the Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley. Address: 3027 Penitencia Creek Road. San Jose, CA 95132.  Donations of either time or money are always appreciated. Check out their website: www.wcsv.org

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