Squirrel gets a second chance at life thanks to caring human

September 5, 2018

SCOTTSBLUFF — Daisy found something in the yard. She ran over and put her paw on something. Dalene Louden, Daisy’s owner, thought it was a rabbit, but it was a baby squirrel.

Louden quickly put Daisy, a Havanese dog, and a friend’s Shih Tzu in the house. By the time she got back, the squirrel had moved a foot and a half. She put on a pair of gardening gloves and put him in a crabapple tree.

“He was petrified and would not move,” she said.

Louden came back inside to do some research online about appropriate care. The advice was to put it back in the nearest tree from where you found it.

“If mama comes back, success,” Louden said. “If not, you need to call a rehab center.”

Louden placed the squirrel, which she calls Junior, in an old contact lens box. She also warmed a sock filled with rice in the microwave for 20 seconds to warm it up and gave it to Junior.

“That way they have something to keep its body heat up,” she said. “If it’s too cold out, bring them inside.”

Though Louden’s home is in a high squirrel area, mama didn’t come back.

“It was disheartening because mama’s got the best chance of raising him,” she said.

Junior survived the night, but was cold, so Louden brought him inside. She didn’t know what to feed him, so she called Shelley Lonsdale, who recommended milk. Almond milk is close to what the squirrel is used to. Junior drank a cap and a half full of almond milk through a dropper.

“How much do you feed a baby squirrel?” she said. “There’s not much guidance on this.”

Lonsdale is the team leader for the area’s Wildlife Rescue Team and has many years experience of taking care of animals. She got her start when her father would bring home animals to her and her sister, Nicole, from the oil fields and they would nurse them back to health. From there, she worked her way up, including stints at vet clinics. When her grandmother called about a rat 15 years ago, which turned out to be a baby opossum, Lonsdale learned there was no one in western Nebraska or eastern Wyoming that was rehabilitating wildlife. After a trial period with the Wildlife Rescue Team, she’s been the “go to” person in the area.

Among the animals she has helped this year are 30 raccoons, 12 opossum, three dozen rabbits, two deer fawns, a coyote pup and an American kestrel. Junior is the tenth squirrel.

“And this is a slow year,” Lonsdale said.

Once inside, Louden moved Junior to a bigger box although he kept trying to get out. Junior relieved himself on Louden’s table. Once she realized it was because squirrels won’t soil their nests, she attached a small waste basket to the box for use as a bathroom.

“That was good because that means his innards are working,” she said.

Junior kept drinking almond milk. He also ate two slices of peaches. As he ate and drank, he seemed to recover.

“It was awesome to see him progressively get more active the more he ate,” Louden said. “As soon as he found the almond milk came from me, we were buddies.”

In the mean time, Lonsdale agreed to come pick up Junior to give him a good shot at life.

“It was a huge relief that if I couldn’t get him connected with his mother that there was a place he could go and be reintroduced into the backyard to maybe eventually see his family,” Louden said.

With each feeding Junior got more active. He prefers to be burrowed in his nest. The first day, he was scared. He didn’t move or squeak. By day three, he was busy making squirrel talk with Louden.

Because it was too cold out the second night, Louden let Junior sleep on her night stand. He only woke her up twice.

Louden thought Junior might have fallen from an elm tree in her front yard. After looking at Junior, Lonsdale said he probably lost his mother and wasn’t quite skilled enough to feed himself.

“He’ll go into an enclosure to feed him and if he acts like he can go, he’ll be released into the yard where I can watch him,” Lonsdale said. “If not, we’ll keep him over the winter and let him go next spring.”

Nearly all the animals are released back into the wild. The few that cannot are found appropriate homes.

“If there is something that has an injury that they cannot be placed in the wild stay with us until we find a place — sanctuary or zoo — where they can go,” Lonsdale said.

Lonsdale said people like Louden have done the right thing. She called right away and intends to return Junior to the wild as soon as possible.

“Wildlife do not make good pets,” Lonsdale said. “They’re wild. That’s what they want to do.”

Most importantly, if you see a wild animal, observe it. It’s mother may be returning.

Junior looks to be in good health other than being a little thin. When Junior is ready, he will be released into Louden’s backyard where he was found.

“He will then fall into the pecking order of the area,” Lonsdale said.

If you’d like to help Lonsdale and the Wildlife Rescue Team in the area, monetary donations can be made at the Goshen County Vet Clinic to cover costs of medical care. All animals in Lonsdale’s care receive vaccinations before being returned to the wild.

Donations of dog and cat food, which up to 50-75 pounds can be used a day, are also appreciated. Lonsdale said they also accept fresh meat as well as other supplies such as bleach, old towels and blankets, old crates and kennels, chain link fencing and chicken wire. She also accepts vegetables and fruit as the season goes on and has the storage capability so the food doesn’t go bad.

For more ways to donate, help or volunteer, contact Shelley Lonsdale at 308-225-0724.

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