Have you ever taken a baby squirrel and started feeding and caring for it, and then it went down physically and died? You are not alone! The following are three common causes of death of squirrels in captivity:
1. Wrong diet.
The number one cause of death of squirrels is poor diet. There is still much controversy about what is the correct formula for feeding lactating squirrels. Many wildlife rehabilitators will tell you to buy an expensive puppy and not to give squirrels cow’s milk. I have used the formula of expensive puppies with extreme success, but recently they changed the composition and the squirrels did not have enough milk fat. Now, all of a sudden, they are telling people to add heavy creams to increase fat! Hello! What is a heavy cream? Cow’s milk is the cream! The reason why a cow kills a squirrel is because the milk in the squirrel contains a substance that causes severe diarrhea. Diarrhea can lead to electrolyte imbalance, which can lead to heart failure and eventually death from a sudden heart attack.
I have found that a milk squirrel calf does well on a creamy cow’s formula if you remove the substance from the milk and the diuretic. But you have to do one simple but important thing to protect this formula for squirrels! I can teach you how to make this formula and save you the hassle of having to spend twenty dollars a can for a puppy formula!
Hypocalcemia is the second leading killer of squirrels. It is a fancy name for low blood calcium. Captive squirrels, in particular, have an unusually high calcium requirement. Death from low blood calcium comes after they stop nursing. They meet their calcium requirements while getting milk. When they leave nursing, they will need a calcium supplement, or they will have what is known as metabolic bone disease. The disease is characterized by loss of calcium from the bones, especially in the spine and hind legs. As they walk, their back legs begin to shift, gradually losing control of nerves and muscles. Their bones are brittle and easily broken.
Low blood calcium can also lead to heart failure and sudden cardiac death. Squirrels with metabolic bone disease are a sad sight! Prevention is simple! I teach squirrels a very simple way to make a dietary supplement called Nut Squares or Nut Balls that guarantees optimal calcium levels and good health.
3. Internal injuries.
The final major killer of squirrel cubs is internal injuries. The most commonly found squirrel has fallen a great distance from a leaf cage. The first thing you should do after getting a squirrel in a warm environment is to thoroughly examine it for injuries. Babies usually have rapid breathing and heartbeat, but if squirrels have difficulty breathing or use only the chest muscles to breathe, it can cause internal injuries. It could be a broken rib or a broken lung or heart! Abdominal concussion can damage internal organs such as the liver, kidneys or spleen. The abdominal wall of a squirrel calf is very thin. If a dark purple color is seen in the abdomen, it is an ominous sign indicating internal bleeding.
There is not much that can be done for a squirrel in that situation. A veterinarian can evaluate an animal, but until it passes, nothing but monitoring and assisting the respiratory struggle with oxygen and a warm environment will take place. During my few years as a squirrel rehabilitator I discovered that squirrels tend to gently massage their head and neck, which makes them very calm and relaxed. Death is a part of life. For me, the comfort of catching a dying squirrel helps me understand how precious and short life is. I get so much joy and satisfaction from caring for these amazing creatures, and thank God that I can make a difference even in death!