A baby squirrel out in the open is in trouble. It may have had its nest disrupted, or something may have happened to its mother. So how do you tell? If baby squirrels are found after an incident (a wind storm or trees were cut or trimmed) it may be temporarily displaced. A renesting attempt should be made.
If a squirrel shows up for no reason (there was no storm or tree trimming) then something happened to its mom and it needs to be taken to a rehabilitation center.
Squirrel nests are often destroyed when a tree is cut down. This may or may not be an emergency. Given the opportunity, the mother will sometimes retrieve an uninjured baby and carry it to a new location, but she will not approach if people are near.
An uninjured baby squirrel can be placed in a box near the base of the tree, or secure a basket to that tree or one close by. Watch for a short time from a distance, preferably through a window from indoors. This may result in the mother’s rescuing it. Wait a few hours or until dark, but do not leave the babies out past sunset. Supplemental heat can keep them warm. Put rice or dried beans in a sock and microwave for about 2 minutes until warm.
Squirrels are one of the only baby animals that typically will “ask for help” when in trouble. A hungry baby squirrel may approach you, often climbing onto your shoes or climbing up your pant leg. This is a hungry baby squirrel. Don’t feed it. Get it to a rehabilitator right away.
How can you tell if a young squirrel is old enough to be on its own? Look at the hairs on the tail. If they stand upright, fanning out completely perpendicular to the tail, it is weaned.
SIGNS OF A PROBLEM
Injury such as broken limbs
Bleeding, bruising, and “crustiness” around the nostrils (a sign of a concussion needing medical treatment)
Screaming babies on the ground or clinging to trees
Maggots or fly eggs on the fur, or in the ears