Being a squirrel momma: a tale of hope, love and exhaustion

I was inside lounging on the couch, sipping a cool glass of ice tea, when my husband stopped his yard work and bounded into the house, beet red and sweaty.

“Oh dear, it looks hot out there,” I said, squeezing more lemon into my tea.

“Why, yes it is,” he said, wiping the sweat from his brow. He turned and pointed to the pine tree. “But, you must come quick. There is something you have to see.”

My fingers loosened on the lemon, letting it slip into the glass. Whatever could it be?

I followed him to our big pine tree and the baby squirrel squirming just below it. Upon seeing him I knew exactly what I must do: search the Internet for exactly what to do.

Isn't he a cutie?

Isn’t he a cutie?

First I needed to try to reunite him with mommy. I scooped him up, warmed him, and set him near the base of the tree.

I waited. I drank more tea. I waited some more. Then I had a glass of wine. Where was she? I had another glass of wine and cursed the terrible rodent mother. Now it was dark and my squirrel was still an orphan.

I had called all of the animal rehabbers in town and everyone was full. So I plucked up the little bundle and sent my hubby out for supplies.

That night, I slept in the spare room with Pinkie. I named him that because baby squirrels are born with light pink skin and don’t have fur yet. Hence, they are called pinkies in the squirrel loving community. You’re impressed with my creativity. I know it…

I woke up every two hours to hydrate Pinkie with Pedialyte, using a 1cc syringe. I don’t have an actual picture so here is a recreation:

Okay, so it's a stuffed animal and a lemur. It's the best I could do...

Okay, so it’s a stuffed animal and a lemur. It’s the best I could do…

I also helped him potty. I was going to recreate this, but I thought I would spare you the horror.

And I made sure his shoebox was half on the heating blanket, and half off in case he needed to roll away from the heat. I was doting, what can I say?

So, it looks a little cramped. But you get the idea.

Yes, his shoebox looks a little cramped. But you get the idea.

In the morning I tried to reunite momma and baby again. But momma never came.

When it was dark, I went out to get puppy formula. Everyone online recommended Fox Valley formula, but that had to be ordered and then delivered. There was no time for that!  He’d been without nourishment for over 24 hours now, and that’s significant amount of time when you typically eat every few hours.

Well, Pinkie must have been famished because he loved it. No, I can’t read squirrels minds. But he made squeaking sounds when the syringe was pulled away and fought with his still rubbery fingernails to bring the syringe back to his mouth. So, I’m pretty sure it was at least palatable.

I woke up every two hours to feed him, and by morning I was exhausted and fully appreciative of all the momma squirrels out there, even Pinkie’s degenerate one.

My next step, besides trying to convince one my cats to foster this thing, was figuring out what to do about work. Not only would they frown on an infant squirrel in my office, I required more than a couple of hours sleep each night.

Pinkie after one of his late night feedings.

Pinkie after one of his late night feedings.

So, I called the only person left who I thought could help, an independent rehabber I’d met a couple weeks prior during a marmot rescue (another story for another day). I knew squirrels weren’t really his thing, but I thought he might know someone who could help­—and he did.

My husband and I packaged up Pinkie and headed north.

“You know,” I said to my hubby, “this woman will likely be crazy.” I stroked Pinkie along his tiny back. “I mean, how many people do you know running a squirrel orphanage out of their house?”

Twenty minutes later we were there. It looked normal enough, though the neighbors’ stares lingered as we walked up the driveway with Pinkie’s shoebox.

At least five and a half dogs greeted us at the door. The back room housed a variety of creatures including a toothless cat. Outside, chickens frolicked with bunnies. According to the woman, a raccoon she had rescued years ago still lived under her deck. It was both frightening and endearing at the same time, so many animals coexisting in one house.

Pinkie’s new home was already set up with lots of cozy blankets. She looked him over before setting him in the glass enclosure. Over the phone she’d been concerned about his survival—young little pinkies usually don’t fare so well. But, after seeing him, she was confident he was going to make it.

I left Pinkie that afternoon and never contacted the woman again. I don’t know if he made it or not. It was easier that way. It’s easier to picture him all grown up, hopping with the bunnies and taunting the toothless cat. It’s easier to think I did the right thing, that I helped save a little life.

How I picture Pinkie today.

How I picture Pinkie today.

**Disclaimer** There are many websites that provide guidance on caring for baby squirrels. The best thing for a baby squirrel is to be with its mother. A baby squirrel is very fragile and requires meticulous, constant care to thrive. In my case, I tried to reunite my squirrel with his mother and then tried to find a rescue group with staff trained in animal rehabilitation. Unfortunately, I was not able to do either of these things and so I took it upon myself to care for this squirrel. I did extensive research before I began feeding my baby and I was still terrified I might hurt the little creature. That being said, I felt I had no other choice. I would either be a foster mom or this little baby would die. Please, if you find an orphaned baby squirrel try to reunite it with its mother. There are resources online that will give you pointers on how best to do this. If this doesn’t work,  try to get your baby to a licensed/trained rehabilitator. This will be the squirrel’s best chance at survival. Lastly, in some states, it can be illegal to keep and care for a wild animal.

5 thoughts on “Being a squirrel momma: a tale of hope, love and exhaustion

  1. natarunmore says:

    I loved this story! I too googled and googled when we first found it. We left her under the tree for about 3 hours, all the neighbours were out on lawn chairs making sure no cats came walking by. It was getting dark, and the internet said if the mother hasn’t come back before dark she isn’t coming at all. She probably got hit by a car.. Pinky was so small!! Mine was about 3 weeks I think.. They are so helpless how can people not do what we did, it was so rewarding! I could do it for a living, easily. I find myself constantly looking under trees now, I can’t stop myself. Knowing how small they are I never want to just walk by one and not help it!

    • jennifer Windram says:

      I know it was really rewarding for me too. Especially when I was at the rehab center. There were a few that I still remember because their personalities were so cute and I got to watch them grow and then find their new homes in the wild. My very favorite was Norman. He was always the first one that wanted to eat. Even when his roommates started getting skittish and hiding from us, he would practically leap out of the cage when the door was opened.

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