I'm always coming home and telling my parents stories about the different types of squirrels in the Nursery at Toronto Wildlife Centre. They are all pretty adorable and hilarious, so I thought it would make a good blog post! So here you are; the 101 different types of squirrels! (well not really 101 - I thought that just sounded good lol)
When baby squirrels first come into the centre, they are often scared and confused. If they have any parasites, are sick, or have any major injuries they will spend their first few days in either assessment, ICU or one of the other rooms until they are ready to come into the nursery. Sometimes this period is just until they're parasites have cleared up, other times it is until they have had their x-rays or been to the vet.
Sometimes however, they make the transition over straight away, and for a little squirrel it can all be a bit overwhelming. We actually had a little girl who just came in today. She was crying her little head off, but when I offered her some pedialyte (a liquid that helps re-hydrate them before they transition onto food formula) she quietened right down and drank a lot! Turns out the little one was just really thirsty! Not all newcomers adjust so easily though - sometimes I swear they don't like the taste of the formula as we shift them onto it - I've seen squirrels stick their tongues out and everything!
The littlest babies are fed up to 5 times a day, and spend most of the time when they're not eating fast asleep. Some of the babies even get what I call 'food coma' where they eat so much that they fall almost instantaneously into a deep sleep right in your hands as you're cleaning them off! =D
At this age they are very cute and honestly seem to think that we are somehow their 'mummy'. Each baby has its own personality; some are very over enthusiastic eaters, while others prefer daintily licking at the end of the syringe nipple.
(Note that the above photo isn't from TWC and doesn't show the correct syringe holding position - you should always have a finger acting as a 'stopper' on the plunger of the syringe to prevent over enthusiastic squirrels from sucking all the formula into their mouth at once and breathing it in by mistake.)
When the squirrels are babies it's very easy to fall in love with their tiny little sleepy personalities, but we must always remember that these are wild animals. Since TWC works to rehabilitate and release these little orphans we try to keep their eyes covered while they are eating, and they have blankets over their cages so that they do not become to used to humans and can remain wild.
TID is the acronym we use to refer to squirrels that are feed three times a day. This is around the age that they start to become more curious, and realise that we're not actually their mummy. Generally this means they become very, VERY fussy!! They are very curious and easily distracted so at this stage feeding them suddenly takes double the amount of time!
When you finally convince them that now isn't a good time to run across the table or tackle the pillow case they're wrapped up in though, they do tend to still be very good eaters, and often end up with very full tummies at the end of the meal. Because squirrels are so small, their stomachs expand quite noticeably when they are full, creating an adorable bulge!
'One Timers (AKA The Teenagers)'
Finally there comes a point where these adorable little babies aren't really babies any more - and they know it! Once they have started to eat solid food (nuts and seeds) on their own, we will start putting them in outside enclosures for the day to adjust them to life in the wild. For a while however, they aren't really eating enough on their own, so must still be hand fed once or twice a day.
Just like human teenagers are known for being grumpy, squirrel teens have quite the attitude! These feisty little guys have decided that they don't need us any more (even if they actually do!) and let us know about it! Not only do they realise that they have quite sharp claws and teeth, but they also become very cleaver; I've had teens appear to be eating only to spit it back out seconds later, and even pull the nipple off the syringe and and try to hide it underneath themselves! These guys will do anything to get their own way!!
And just when you think you've seen it all, a red squirrel comes along. Not only are these babies much tinier than any of the Gray Squirrels, but they're faster too!! Red squirrels love chasing each other around their cages and doing rolls in your hands as you try to feed them (I have no clue why, but they will just continuously roll onto their backs and then back upright again if you let them!) and getting formula everywhere! Once you've got some food in them however, just like any other baby they get very sleepy, and their isn't much that's cuter that a tiny sleepy red squirrel.
So there you have it, all the different types of squirrels babies at TWC! I bet you'll never look at the squirrels in you backyard quite the same! There are lots of other animals I'm learning about at Toronto Wildlife Centre too, so stay tuned for another post about all of them!
Have a great week!