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Saving Raccoons And Squirrels In Fall Baby Season

Local wildlife like raccoons and squirrels also get veterinary care when babies are found that need help.

By Jerry Murray, DVM
Posted: October 19, 2011, 5 a.m. EDT

baby squirrel being hand-fed
Courtesy Jerry Murray, DVM
This was the first baby squirrel brought in this fall. Luckily, it didn't have any serious health problems.

Usually during the spring and early summer it is baby season for cats, ferrets, prairie dogs and the local wildlife in Texas. Typically, several baby squirrels are brought into the clinic for medical care followed by raising them, with the ultimate goal of releasing them back into the wild. Most baby squirrels survive their initial injuries, bottle feeding and hand-raising. It’s a time-consuming but rewarding job to watch these little rodents grow up.

Yet this year no squirrels came into the clinic during the spring and summer. The extreme heat wave and severe drought in Texas must have delayed the breeding season for the local wildlife. It was September before the first baby squirrel came in. Fortunately, this little squirrel did not have any serious problems, and he quickly took to bottle-feeding. It did not take long before he was eating nuts on his own. This squirrel is still too small to be released this fall, so he will remain in captivity until the spring.

The next squirrel that came in was very small (about the size of a pinkie mouse) and had an injury to his arm and shoulder area. It was doubtful he would survive. Despite the long odds, he survived the initial injury with a lot of TLC and bottle-feeding. It looked like he would make it, but then he was injured again after he was put into a bigger cage. Sadly, he did not survive this second injury.

baby raccoon being held
Courtesy Jerry Murray, DVM
This baby raccoon was one of a group suffering from a respiratory illness.

Likewise in the spring and early summer a local wildlife rehabber normally brings in some baby raccoons for deworming and occasionally for treatment of injuries or illnesses. It was also not until September when she brought in some babies raccoons with a respiratory illness. Raccoons can develop respiratory problems from viruses such as canine distemper, West Nile virus, avian and human influenza viruses. In addition, bacterial infections and aspiration pneumonia from bottle-feeding are also possible causes of respiratory illness in baby raccoons.

The exact cause of the respiratory illness in these raccoons was not determined, but they were treated with a broad-spectrum antibiotic and supportive care. All but one of the raccoons survived, and they will be released back into the wild in the spring.

That is how it goes with wildlife babies. Not all will survive, even when they are raised by their real moms, but it is a thrill to help the ones that do make it.

See all of Dr. Murray's columns>>

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