How To Help Squirrels

squirrelPublic Health Concerns

Since squirrels rarely bite unless they’ve been cornered or feel threatened, they’re typically able to coexist with humans with little issue. For the most part, disease transmission from squirrels to humans is extremely rare. For instance, squirrel refuge rehabilitators annually handle thousands of adult, juvenile, and infant squirrels, with no incidence of disease transmission by following good hygienic practices and taking reasonable precautions.

For the most part, it’s possible but highly unlikely a squirrel is infected and will transmit any of the following diseases to humans:

  • Salmonellosis – Salmonella bacteria found in their droppings causes diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever.

  • Lyme disease – spread by the ticks squirrels carry and symptoms include nerve pain, stiffness, and inflammation of the brain or spinal cord.

  • Tularemia – an unpleasant condition that brings about swollen lymph nodes and ulcers.

  • Leptospirosis – symptoms include fever, headache, vomiting, jaundice, and rash.

  • Rabies – virus can be passed onto humans via biting or scratching. However, by being so rare it’s one of the few bites that doesn’t trigger a rabbis vaccine protocol when people come to the Emergency Room with a squirrel bite.

Squirrel Bites

The most common issue with squirrels result from bite wounds. Squirrels can inflict bites faster than a snake (Milus, 1999). Bites can easily progress rapidly into a serious infection because squirrels have strong jaws that can inject bacteria deep into tissues making it difficult to clean. Squirrels bites tend to occur on the hands where bacteria can get into the tissue that surrounds the bones or into a joint and result in osteomyelitis (infection of the bone) or septic arthritis (infection of the joint). If you are bitten, immediately clean the wound thoroughly with soap and water and immediately seek medical attention at the first sign of infection. Your doctor may recommend that you get a tetanus shot if its been over five years since you were last vaccinated. Tetanus is a serious, potentially life-threatening infection that can occur with any puncture wound.

Most zoonotic diseases passed from squirrels to humans are treated with antibiotic therapy, but can become quite serious if left untreated. the risk of an infection at the site of the bite is always present with any animal bite.

Preventing Disease

The best way to prevent the spread of disease is to avoid contact with squirrels and their waste, and wearing gloves and masks helps reduce the possibility of contracting illnesses.

How To Help Baby Squirrels

If you find an infant squirrel that has fallen from its nest and is not injured:

  • Watch and see if the mother comes, remaining indoors where your presence will not frighten her. Remember that mother squirrels do not voluntarily abandon their babies. It is fine if the baby vocalizes and cries out; this will help the mother locate it.

  • If the mother doesn’t return for her baby within 2 hours, or before it gets dark, place it in a box lined with soft rags and keep it in a warm, dark, quiet place. If you have a heating pad, turn it on LOW and place HALF the box on top of it.

  • Only if you must keep the orphan overnight should you attempt to give it anything by mouth. Keeping it warm is the most important thing.

  • DO NOT GIVE IT ANY TYPE OF FORMULA OR MILK. Baby squirrels require a specialized diet and can develop fatal problems from being fed an incorrect formula.

  • If necessary, you may make a re-hydrating solution of 50% Pedialyte OR Gatorade and 50% water. Once the baby has warmed up, you may carefully try to give it drops of this warmed solution with a syringe.

  • DO NOT FORCE IT IF THE BABY WON’T SWALLOW. This can cause it to aspirate.

  • If the baby squirrel still has its eyes closed, it will need to be stimulated to urinate and defecate. After hydration, gently wipe its genital area with a cotton ball, slightly moistened with warm water.

Additional Information About Squirrels:

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