How to identify a baby squirrel

How to Identify a Baby Squirrel and What to Do If You Find One

Encountering a baby squirrel, tiny and seemingly defenseless, can be both fascinating and concerning. Whether you’re a designated wildlife caregiver or simply a passerby who stumbles upon a furry infant on a morning walk, knowing how to identify a young squirrel and understanding the right steps to take are crucial. In this comprehensive guide, you’ll gain valuable insights into recognizing young squirrels, their distinguishing features, protective behaviors, and the responsible actions to follow should you find one in need.

The Baby Squirrel in the Wild

Squirrels are one of the most common wild mammals found in North America and beyond. They are renowned for their speedy acrobatics, characteristic bushy tails, and distinct way of storing food. But what about their babies? Baby squirrels, depending on the species, can be born throughout the year, but it’s the spring and summer months when they become more visibly active in their habitats, typically eager to explore their surroundings.

Should you encounter a young squirrel in its natural habitat, it’s important to remember that, oftentimes, mother squirrels will leave their young unattended for hours while they forage for food. This is a critical time for the baby squirrel, as they learn to wait patiently and quietly for the return of their mother.

Physical Characteristics of Baby Squirrels

Size and Appearance

Baby squirrels, also known as kits or pups, are born hairless and with closed eyes. Eventually, they grow a fine layer of fur that is soft and malleable, resembling the texture of a kitten’s coat. The length of this stage varies with the species; for instance, tree squirrels can wean between 10 to 12 weeks, while flying squirrels may take around 8 weeks. Unlike adult squirrels, they are too young to have developed the distinct features most people associate with the animal.

Size Comparison

In comparison to their adult counterparts, baby squirrels are much smaller, typically fitting into the palm of your hand when they are first born. Their compact size and largely defenseless state emphasize the need for careful and considerate interaction if humans come across them in the wild.

Behavioral Traits of Baby Squirrels

Nest Affinity

One noticeable behavioral trait of baby squirrels is their attachment to their nests, which are usually located in the hollow of a tree or a drey made of twigs and leaves. They will not venture too far from this safe haven until they are older and more capable.


Another characteristic behavior is how the infant squirrels communicate. They emit a series of high-pitched calls, often described as chirping or twittering, to signal their needs or distress, but these sounds can be quite differently pitched from adults, which tend to be more assertive and growly in nature.

Social Learning

Squirrels are highly social animals, and babies are no exception. They learn their survival skills by imitating their parents and other members of their family or community. This habit of watching, learning, and then repeating is essential for them to grow and eventually fend for themselves.

Tips for Identifying a Baby Squirrel

Physical Examination

The most telling factor when identifying a baby squirrel is their size and their appearance in contrast to an adult squirrel. However, if it’s a lone squirrel with no sign of its parent nearby, it’s likely a baby. Ensure that no visible injuries or issues such as the animal being unable to move are present before proceeding.

Observation and Patience

If the area allows, remain hidden at a safe distance for some time, to give the mother a chance to return unimpeded. Observation is key as the young squirrel’s behavior will often signal its age and reliance on parental care.

Environmental Interaction

Baby squirrels become more active as they grow, often practicing their tree-climbing skills. Their activities around their nest, sometimes visible as they cling to tree trunks or branches, can also help in identification.

Safety Guidelines When Approaching a Baby Squirrel

It can be quite alluring to approach and handle a baby animal, but the key here is restraint. The squirrel’s best chance of survival is with its parents, so interfering should be a last resort. However, certain scenarios necessitate a more direct approach while keeping the safety and health of both the animal and yourself a priority.

Wear Protective Gear

Should you decide to handle a baby squirrel out of necessity, use protective gear like gloves to prevent any potential bites or scratches. While they may look cute and harmless, their small sharp teeth can cause injury, and they could be carrying parasites or diseases.

Minimal Interaction

Keep interaction to the absolute minimum. Transport the baby squirrel to a safer area if it has been injured or the nest has been irreparably damaged. If you’re not sure what to do, it’s always best to observe from a safe distance and contact a professional for advice.

Finding an Abandoned or Injured Baby Squirrel

The discovery of an abandoned or injured baby squirrel can be a distressing experience. However, it’s essential to approach this situation with calm and a clear plan of action. Ensure that the area is safe and deal with any immediate threats such as predators or traffic and seek guidance on the next steps.

Immediate Shelter

If the baby squirrel is found in an area prone to danger, move it gently to a sheltered spot nearby, such as the base of the tree the nest was located in. Ensure no predators are in the vicinity before leaving.

Contact an Expert

Reach out to local wildlife rehabilitators or animal control agencies for advice. They can provide detailed instructions based on the specific circumstances and involve professionals who are trained to handle rare situations.

Wildlife Rehabilitators: The Guardians of Baby Squirrels

Wildlife rehabilitators are the unsung heroes of the animal kingdom. These dedicated individuals or organizations specialize in the care and fostering of injured, abandoned, or orphaned wild animals, including squirrels. If you find yourself in the position of needing to help a baby squirrel, getting in touch with a wildlife rehabilitator should be your priority.

Their Role

Rehabilitators are trained to assess the health and needs of a baby squirrel. They will likely ask questions to determine the best course of action. Whether the squirrel needs to be brought in for care or can be left alone to be retrieved by its parent, their advice is invaluable.

Finding One in Your Area

Before you encounter a baby squirrel in need, research and jot down the contact information of local rehabilitators. Having this information on hand ensures you act promptly and responsibly should the need arise.

Final Note: The Wildness of Wildlife

The call of the wild is a powerful one, and baby animals evoke an especially strong sense of compassion and protection. However, it’s vital to remember that these animals are wild, and our intervention should be balanced and informed. Our goal when encountering a baby squirrel should be to ensure that it receives the appropriate care, be it from its parents or from professionals trained to provide for its unique needs.

By familiarizing yourself with the physical and behavioral traits of baby squirrels, you equip yourself with the knowledge to identify when a young squirrel is genuinely in need of help. And by following the recommended safety guidelines and promptly contacting wildlife rehabilitators, you contribute to the well-being and preservation of these precious creatures. Remember, it takes a village to raise a baby squirrel – ensure that the village consists of those who understand and respect the wildness within. Squirrels are a vital part of their ecosystem, and it’s crucial that we do our best to support and protect them. So let’s continue to observe, learn, and coexist with these fascinating creatures in harmony. After all, they may be small, but they play a significant role in keeping our world wild and wonderful. Keep an eye out for baby squir


Q: How can I tell if a baby squirrel is really abandoned?

A: Observation is key. Watch from a distance to see if the mother returns, typically within a few hours. Baby squirrels are visited by their mothers only a few times a day to avoid attracting predators.

Q: What should I do if I find a baby squirrel on the ground?

A: Try to safely return it to its nest if possible. If the nest is unreachable or if you are unsure of its location, contact a wildlife rehabilitator for advice.

Q: Can I feed a baby squirrel I found?

A: It is not recommended to feed a baby squirrel without professional guidance. Incorrect feeding can cause harm. It’s best to keep the squirrel warm and quiet while you contact a wildlife rehabilitator.

Q: How long can a baby squirrel survive without its mother?

A: This can vary, but baby squirrels can quickly become dehydrated and need warmth. If you believe a squirrel has been left alone for more than a few hours, call for expert advice.

Q: Are baby squirrels dangerous?

A: While generally not dangerous, baby squirrels can bite or scratch if frightened. Always wear gloves if you must handle one and try to minimize contact.

Q: How can I prevent squirrels from being orphaned or injured in the first place?

A: Protecting squirrel habitats, avoiding tree trimming during nesting seasons (spring and summer), and driving cautiously in areas populated by squirrels can help prevent many instances of squirrel orphans or injuries.

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