The Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge has already had a busy year when it comes to baby animals.
Now, they’ve added nearly 80 baby squirrels to the mix.
“We’ve already had an unusually busy year,” said Executive Director Stormy Andersen. “At one point, we had 150 different baby species at the facility. The baby squirrels started last week with 56. It’s crazy.”
There are two squirrel breeding seasons, one in early spring and another in mid-summer. Andersen said the influx of baby squirrels could be from people landscaping their yards and cutting down tree limbs were squirrels keep their nests.
“Some try to rehab the squirrels themselves, but it’s a really tough job,” Andersen said. “The littlest ones — we call them pinkies since they don’t have hair — have to be fed six to eight times a day.”
The infant squirrels don’t know how to eliminate their waste, so staff and volunteers have to “potty” them, Andersen said. The refuge is currently training volunteers how to feed and clean the babies. And the staff have been taking home the youngest of the squirrels so they can receive the round-the-clock care they need.
The refuge is also raising funds to care specifically for the squirrels. Andersen said each intake costs just about $28 when you tally up staff hours and the specialized formula. You can donate through their website.
It’s a lot of manpower and money to care for the squirrels, but it is gratifying — not to mention adorable — work.
“We just fed a group of them and now they’re all huddled together to take a nap,” Andersen said.
Because ECWR is currently stretched thin, they have not been able to go out and rescue squirrels, but they do care for any that are brought to the facility.
Not all lone baby squirrels are necessarily in need of rescue, Andersen said. Sometimes they are left alone while parents gather food. To report an animal in need, call the refuge at 650-1880 or after hours call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission hotline at 1-888-404-3922.
“If it’s not in immediate danger, the mom will come and get it,” Andersen said. “If it is in immediate danger, put it in a shoebox with holes and lay some crumbled newspaper in there. Don’t feed or water it, just keep it warm.”