The Squirrel Tale
Here goes the Squirrel Tale …One of the most common rodent species found in south Asia especially in the tropical regions of India is the Indian palm squirrel.
My family and I have looked after 40 orphaned squirrels and let them free into the wild.
Some Critical Points in Squirrel Management
- Young pink new born squirrels should have received mothers’ milk for at least 5 days. Else they may die within a week or two no matter how best care u give. At this stage sustaining their life is hard.
- A fairly lighter pink and hair coat starting to grow is acceptable for nursing an orphaned or injured squirrel.
- Adult squirrels shouldn’t be disturbed from its habitat.
- Injured adult squirrel should be approached with at most care. They tend to bite, or hurt themselves even more. Only docile, shocked and disabled animal should be handled. they should not be nursed nor treated without a vet’s advice.
- They should be left when become active.
- They may be a source of many diseases viz rabies, or parasitic zoonotic diseases. Care must be taken.
- Children should neither handle baby nor adult squirrels. They are delicate beings, beside they tend to bite].
- They shouldn’t be put in a closed cage, they belong to the wild.
- They shouldn’t be kept as pets.
- Baby squirrels shouldn’t be exposed to ants or other natural predators.
- Squirrel babies shouldn’t be taken from nest for adoption.
- Healthy squirrels should not be disturbed.
Squirrels as Pets
It is advised not to have squirrels as pets. They are wild animals and should be with the nature. Some people fancy keeping them within four bars which is really a sin.
Most of baby orphaned squirrels need attention, care and most of all food. If the squirrel happens to be handled by a human at its infancy ie its eyes still closed there is a very high possibility of imprinting. The baby squirrels will see humans as their mother and will develop a close bond between them throughout their life. Among all the 26 squirrels we looked after we found two of them with eyes closed stage which survived and both of them still consider us as its parents. This can be differentiated only when they are sent back to nature. These squirrels don’t run away when we put the feed. They stay around rather even tend to climb on us at times. They also demand for more variety of food stuffs which was totally absent in other squirrels we looked after and that found in nature.
The other squirrels that we reared and looked after showed a good bonding as long as it was with us. They used to eat food from our hands, play with us and lots more. Some include sharing some emotions, facial expressions, naughtiness, adamant behavior, caring etc. some even tend to imitate what we try to do. All these characters are observed when they are with us.
When we get more than two squirrels, some characters apart from above is seen ie competition, jealousy, need for equal attention. They actually wouldn’t mind if they are from same litter or not. Some groups are not even bothered about the age of its counterparts. While living together they lived in with the feeling of a family. Once they are out they tend to have an individual life with its mate.
Squirrels mainly identify humans by sight, sound and smell. All our squirrels were accustomed to us but when they were exposed to strangers they tend to seek shelter, hide, burrow themselves or choose to stay at a higher place and some even bites if forced to meet strangers.
One strange behavior observed in most of squirrels is when they move out after becoming adult they don’t tend to remember us, rather would stay away from us. Its basic instinct takes over it within few hours when it is enters the wild. All domesticated characters are completely washed away. We can see that the squirrels can rapidly adapt to the change in the environment. Cause for this sudden change in behavior is not known.
With Other Animals
These magnificent creatures show a wide range of adaptability. They were subjected to docile dogs, rabbits and rats.
For baby squirrels below 2 weeks of age can be given only liquid diet and squirrels below 1 week of age are difficult to feed. Squirrels can be fed on cows’ milk for about two and a half to three months. Squirrels below 1 week need mother’s milk which is rich in various proteins minerals vitamins and other essential components which ate vital for its survival. These essential components are deficient in commercial available cows’ milk.
The milk should be diluted at 1:1 ratio with water for squirrels above 2 weeks of age and below 1 ½ months. For squirrel above 1 ½ months to 3 months whole milk can be supplemented. For squirrel below two weeks of age milk is diluted with water [milk is taken little more than half and diluted]. This mixture is made in a small coffee cup. To this ¼th tea spoon of sugar is added. The milk is heated up to 40 degree C.
Care To Be Taken While Milk Feeding
- Like human babies squirrels should be fed with most attention.
- Feeding schedule should be fixed.
- Force feeding should be avoided.
- Excess let down of milk should be avoided. This may cause aspiratory pneumonia and death occurs within few seconds.
- If milk enters nose it should be cleaned fast.
- Over feeding may feed may lead to diarrhoea. At times feed should be regulated. Milk should be further diluted.
- Vessels and apparatus should be cleaned thoroughly.
- Care should be taken to avoid seepage of milk all over body while feeding.
- Children should not feed the squirrel.
- Patience is required to feed the animal.
Feeding of Growing and Adult Squirrels
A squirrel above 3 weeks of age tends to nibble soft food stuffs. They initially prefer grapes, pomegranate, and bananas. It does not prefer sticky wet food stuffs. For balanced diet at this stage diluted horlicks can be supplemented. At this stage animal is very hyper active and tends to move around.
From about 6 weeks of age a wide range of food can be offered to the squirrel. They include small quantities of cooked rice, raw rice, oats, fruits, [don’t prefer vegetables] some nuts, cherry, some grams, whole flower, some baked items viz biscuits, bread. A variety of house hold food can be offered.
Indian palm Squirrels are very vulnerable animals. They should be handled with love and care. It is a gift of nature making it one of the most beautiful creatures in this planet. Killing squirrels and using their fur for paint brushes should be avoided by using its alternatives. They are best in their eco system. Rearing squirrels or having them as pets is not advised. Till this generation ‘a squirrel tale saved a squirrel tail’. Squirrel is considered sacred due to its tale of stripes by Lord Rama. So it’s our duty being humans to ensure their well being. They may be our pest but they have equal right as us to live in this planet.