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When You Find a Baby Squirrel – Remember WHAM
If you find a baby squirrel, you just need to remember the acronym WHAM to act like a pro in providing care!
WHAM is a four step process to ensure that you cover all the bases in providing a structured approach to ensure that an infant is given every opportunity to survive.
“W” stands for Warm.
Baby squirrels lose body heat very quickly, especially when they are born, usually in early March. Ideally, you want mom to come and bring her back, but it’s hard to wait for your mom with a nearly naked body in the cold of early March. I found that a small cardboard box with a cloth rice bag that is heated in a microwave and attached to a tree keeps the child comfortable and away from predators while it waits for its mother to find it. If he doesn’t get it, the box and bag of rice make a great incubator to house the baby during early care, especially in the first five weeks when his eyes are closed. A baby squirrel should always feel warmer than your hand when you hold it!
“H” stands for Hydrate.
An infant can become dehydrated very quickly. Their bodies are so small that it doesn’t take long for them to build electrolyte balance. If it gets bad enough, it can cause the heart to beat irregularly or stop. If the baby looks very dry and wrinkled and the skin does not return to its normal state when you touch it, or the baby is too sluggish to respond, even after being warmed, you need to rehydrate him!
Many rehabilitators and veterinarians will tell you to give unflavored Pedialyte electrolyte replacement fluid. That’s fine, just warm it up and give small amounts with an eye dropper or a small syringe. My only question is; Where does a mother cat get Pedialyte when she is carrying her baby and is dehydrated? I have never had a dehydrated baby go straight to breast milk. So, you do whatever you want, just keep the baby hydrated.
“A” stands for Accommodate.
If you have reached this point in the WHAM process, you will need to make a decision about the future maintenance of this criterion. Are you going to protect it and try to lift it up and release it? Or, are you going to take her to a rehab center?
Part of implementing it is taking a second, closer look. You’ve heated and hydrated it, now look at it and check for other problems. If she has hair, take a close look at her hair. There may be bugs and insects. I use Hartz baby spray on a cotton swab to kill any bugs and brush them off.
Look for any cuts or open wounds. Check her legs for possible fractures. I treat the wounds with raw coconut oil. You can wash them with soap and water and apply antibiotic ointment.
Look for any signs of labored breathing. A baby should not use more than chest muscles to breathe. If she is struggling to breathe, and her skin does not look pink, there may be internal injuries. Check her belly for any cuts or discoloration. This can be a sign of internal injuries. If you have questions, seek a Veterinarian with experience in exotic or wild animals.
A baby squirrel can be placed in a very comfortable box until its eyes open. Next, you will need a cage. A small cage is fine at first, but as the baby grows physically a larger cage will be needed. My last cage before release is a large size in my backyard. It allows my squirrels to acclimate to life outside, while also allowing them to observe how other squirrels behave. It also allows them to get the exercise and climbing skills they will need once they are released.
“M” stands for Maintain.
Maintain simply means doing what is necessary to ensure that the squirrel has everything it needs to grow into a healthy squirrel. He warms and eats when he is a baby. They let her nurse until she weanes herself off formula, then get her the right kinds of foods and calcium support to prevent metabolic bone disease.
Keeping a squirrel until it is ready to release is not difficult, and it does not have to be expensive, but it does require diligence and desire. My wife and I are passionate about raising healthy, disease resistant chickens and are always willing to help others do the same! It’s a labor of love for us, and it makes all the difference in the world!
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