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Baby Squirrels are Back! and Don’t Feed the Wildlife!

Posted on 14 March 2006 by Dawn Keller

Last month, Kane County Animal Control brought us a squirrel that was seriously injured after becoming stuck in a bird feeder (Second Nature Fly-Thru Platform Feeder manufactured by Backyard Nature Products, Inc.). The squirrel became stuck in the feeder when its toes were entangled in the twisted metal structure supporting the feeder's roof.

Frantic to free itself, the squirrel chewed off one of its own toes in a futile effort to escape. Sadly, despite his efforts, he remained stuck because toes from three of his four feet were also stuck.

The homeowners called animal control to intervene. They cut down the feeder and Animal Control brought the feeder back to their offices. (The featured picture shows the squirrel entangled in the feeder after the feeder was cut down). After tranquilizing the squirrel, Animal Control was able to remove him from the feeder.

Unfortunately, by the time that Animal Control was called, one toe on each of three feet had already suffered from major damage. One was completely missing. Two others were damaged beyond repair.

The good news is that, despite the permanent injuries to his toes, the squirrel has adapted and has regained full mobility. He is lucky that he will be able to return to the wild.

This experience reminds us that even products marketed as nature products can, if poorly designed, have inherent dangers.
We received our first baby squirrel of the season on Sunday, his arrival which was earlier than normal by several weeks. He is a boy - hairless, eyes closed, about 10 days old. He weighed 29 grams upon admission.

A concerned couple rescued this little guy on Saturday morning. They correctly left him at the base of the tree for several hours hoping that his mother would retrieve him. Sadly, when nightfall came, he was still unclaimed, and now, he was also cold.

As the couple told me their story of trying to care for this helpless creature, I cringed when I heard the next words...."We read on the internet to give him Pedialyte." I think I responded with a "(Moan) You didn't feed him, did you?!"

Well, unfortunately for this little guy, his rescuers DID feed him. And, like 85+% of the public who try to feed baby wildlife, despite their careful and well-intentioned efforts, they fed him incorrectly and aspirated the baby squirrel.

When babies are aspirated, it means that fluid or food gets down into their lungs. They generally develop pneumonia and die. Although we have saved baby mammals and birds that have been aspirated, many more arrive past the point of help.

This is not a criticism of the people who brought us this squirrel. In fact, I feel horrible that they tried so hard to help him and caused him harm in the process. It is unfortunate that so many people see advice on the internet that doesn't warn against risks and advise how difficult correct feeding can be.

What the internet should tell people is NOT to feed wildlife that they find! When you find an animal PLEASE remember that many more animals die because of people feeding them incorrectly than because people don't feed them while they locate a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. Obviously, you need to locate a licensed rehabilitator as quickly as possible, but a few hours or overnight very rarely causes an irreversible problem.

So back to Sunday's squirrel....

He's hanging on so far. He's a real fighter and is responding well to antibiotics. Let's hope that he pulls through!

Oh, and I'm back to my schedule of no more than two hours of sleep in a row so that I can feed every two hours, 24 hours a day, 7 days per week. (YAWN)! the manufacturer and hope that they will either discontinue or redesign this product in order to improve its safety. We will keep you posted on the outcome.

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