Did you know, baby squirrels are commonly "orphaned" meaning they are somehow separated from their nest and could use your help for survival!? And I know what you're thinking... great, ANOTHER squirrel... but they are actually very important helpers in diversifying and preserving our ecosystems:
The Eastern Gray Squirrel, Sciurus carolinensis, is native to North America. According to a study published in 2003, Eastern Gray Squirrels are the most prodigious and ecologically essential natural forest regenerator.
So picture this: It was a beautiful autumn day in Chapel Hill when a squirrel pup ran right up to us on a bustling street. Noticing it's small size and strange behavior, I bent down to get a closer look at him. He was shivering, and coming closer and closer to us. Before I knew it, the squirrel pup had jumped into my arms and immediately burrowed into the thick sleeves of my sweatshirt, falling asleep immediately.
I acted fast, researching the best ways to handle this situation. Here are some helpful sources that I used in my search for answers:
In most scenarios, if you find a helpless squirrel pup thats been separated from its nest, it can be best to provide it a warm bed (for example putting a heating pad in a basket with a blanket) then place it where you found it overnight in an attempt to attract the mother back to her baby. Unlike most animals, the squirrel mothers do not "reject" their young if they've been separated from the nest. Most will actually hear the babies' cries and come save them, taking them back to their home.
In our case this was not a reliable solution, as we found him on a busy street and Chapel Hill was gearing up for a football game, with crowds forming and tailgates popping up everywhere. Not to mention the low temperatures that night would've risked the pups survival even further.
Fast forward 2 days and "Squish" had spent 2 lovely days and nights with us, sleeping in a small flower pot I'd insulated with warm water in baggies and microfiber cloths to keep him warm. Based on his size, tooth growth, and behavior he was just about 7 weeks old. I bottle fed him Esbilac which is a NON-Dairy formula that's best for squirrels. Between naps he would climb all over me as I worked in my pottery studio. We fell for each other fast and hard, but I knew it all had to end soon.
On Monday morning I reached out to Our Wild Neighbors, a wildlife rehab facility in Hillsborough, NC. They were thrilled to hear we'd taken such great care of him and assured us they had a cozy spot for him to join the other squirrel pups that had been rescued this season. On our short drive over from the studio, Squish and I enjoyed our last snuggle together. I have to admit I was teary-eyed as we approached the sanctuary, but if you know me that shouldn't be a surprise at all.
Squish then joined the other squirrel pups as the volunteers told me they'd keep him over the winter. Squirrels birth pups in the Spring and/or Fall season, and orphaned fall season pups need to stay warm and wait for spring food in order to survive. I was so thrilled to know he'd be kept safe and not far from his 2 day home and temporary momma.
In honor of giving thanks today, we encourage our mobile mushroom family to donate to their local Wildlife Rehabilitation Centers. These selfless community members volunteer their hearts and time to preserve our environment and keep our ecosystems healthy and thriving.