Iora rua / Iora glas

Rehabilitation of wildlife casualties requires a licence and a large investment of time and resources. It is mainly in the animal’s best interest to transfer it to an appropriately trained and equipped individual/organisation as soon as possible.

Before attempting to capture a wildlife casualty:

  • Observe, assess, discuss, then decide whether intervention is appropriate
  • All wild animals can potentially transmit disease and inflict serious injuries
  • Remember, your own safety is of paramount importance


FIRST try to call relevant contact number from CONTACT page for further advice


  • Follow capture instructions below
  • Capture ONLY if you have adequate equipment and container
  • Consider personal safety on roads e.g. reflective jackets, warning signs
  • Bring to a vet if possible, if not bring home temporarily
  • Follow husbandry advice for feeding and housing
  • Call relevant contact number from CONTACT page for further advice


  • If you can approach the animal lay a blanket/coat over the casualty for warmth
  • If animal is on the road, protect it from traffic if possible
  • Consider personal safety on roads e.g. reflective jackets, warning signs
  • Do not drag the animal off the road, if safe to do so, lift it to a safe place on a coat/towel

(see Unconscious casualty capture)

  • Note exact location and call relevant person from CONTACT page
  • Ideally stay with the casualty until someone comes to help

Blanket, gauntlet type gloves, long handled nets
Solid mesh/plastic ventilated container e.g. cat carrier/crush cage or dog carrier/crate
Squirrel trap, smaller version of feral cat trap
Ideally 2 people

Entanglement / entrapment capture (e.g. caught in fencing)
Ideally vet/ rehabilitator can come and assess the squirrel’s condition in person
If not, assess squirrel’s condition with vet/rehabilitator over the phone
If decision is made to capture the squirrel, follow instructions below:

  • Use towel/net to contain the animal then with thick gloves hold the squirrel by the loose skin at the back of its head
  • Person two cuts fencing
  • If, and only if, after discussion with the vet/ rehabilitator, all are satisfied that there has been no serious physical damage to the squirrel, i.e. no fencing material has become embedded in or put pressure on the animal, then it may be released
  • If worried/unsure, treat as for snaring (see below)continue capture (as below) and bring to vet for assessment
  • Container must be large enough to fit squirrel and any embedded fencing section
  • Squirrel lifted into open container

Caught in snare

  • Use towel/net to contain the animal then with thick gloves hold the squirrel by the loose skin at the back of its head
  • DO NOT CUT FREE AND RELEASE! (want to prevent wound damage)
  • Person two cuts wire so animal can be rescued, along with any embedded snare section
  • Container must be large enough to fit squirrel and any embedded snare
  • Squirrel pulled/lifted into open container

Unconscious casualty capture (e.g. hit by car on road)

  • Handle with care as handling could bring it back to consciousness
  • Cover with towel and using thick gauntlets or spade/dustpan, scoop squirrel into container

Trap capture (if mobile)

  • Choose an area that the squirrel frequents on a daily basis, ideally with a hidden vantage point so you can check on the trap
  • Place the trap here
  • Leave food out for the squirrel every day at the same time
  • Initially leave the food at a distance from the trap but over a few days bring it closer to the trap, eventually leaving it inside the trap
  • Remove uneaten food when bringing fresh food
  • Check trap at least every 6 hrs

Net capture (if in an enclosed area)

  • Ideally – slam net to the ground over squirrel to trap it
  • Use towel and/or gauntlets, to roll/bundle squirrel into container
  • Try carefully to remove towel and net from container WITHOUT letting squirrel out!

Feeding Station (medicate the squirrel via food)

  • Choose an area that the squirrel frequents on a daily basis, ideally with a hidden vantage point so you can lie in wait to watch
  • Leave food out for the squirrel every day at the same time
  • Remove uneaten food when bringing fresh food
  • If the squirrel comes regularly for feeding, your vet may suggest medicating his food for treatment

BABY SQUIRREL – ‘pup, kit or kitten’
Attempt to re-unite (blind or hairless baby found on the ground)

  • Touch to ascertain temperature
  • If warm to the touch, put it/them in small open box with warm towel, leave where found
  • Hide and watch for up to 3hrs to see if the mother returns to them
  • If cold to the touch, obviously injured, or definitely orphaned then rescue required
  • Squirrel mother will not reject baby with human scent, WILL reject baby if it’s cold

Capture notes
If casualty is on a road, attempt capture from road side and herd away from road
Consider personal safety on roads: reflective jackets, warning signs etc
Crouch down when approaching – you appear less of a threat
Approach slowly, stopping if animal appears ready to flee

Sturdy carrier – wire mesh or solid container with secure lid, e.g. mesh crush cage from the vet
Cat/Dog carrier or puppy crate
Avoid direct sunlight – danger of overheating
Cover container with towel, darkness will reduce stress

Can inflict a very nasty bite – always wear gloves
NEVER lift a squirrel by its tail
Do not handle unnecessarily
Once captured do not try to calm animal by talking to it
Keep other domestic animals away

See SUPPLIES page for food and equipment mentioned below

Squirrels are rodents, they gnaw!
House in quiet area away from domestic animals
Darken the container to reduce stress
Line with newspaper, a towel will give the animal somewhere to hide
Leafy branch for hiding, gnawing

  • Dog cage/crate
  • Cat carrier
  • Empty deep wheelie bin in emergency!

A hot water bottle wrapped in a towel can be used if squirrel very sick, unable to stand
Beware overheating can kill so give enough space that the squirrel can move away from the heat

Dry puppy food
Heavy bowl of drinking water if animal bright and alert

See SUPPLIES page for food and equipment mentioned below

Step by Step:

  • Weigh
  • Warm up
  • Stimulate to urinate/defecate
  • Provide fluids

Line with newspaper. Use towels for bedding
Keep indoors, in a warm, quiet, darkened place
Keep away from children and domestic animals
Only handle for feeding

  • Dog cage/crate
  • Cat carrier

The baby squirrel should feel warm to the touch
Warm up slowly with warm towels if very cold
The baby squirrel needs to be kept warm; part of the container needs to be roughly 30˚C
A hot water bottle wrapped in a towel can be used
Beware overheating can also kill so give enough space that the kit can move away from the heat
If the kit is cold it will be unwilling to feed



Rehydration solution/ ‘milk’ suggestions:

  • Rehydration solution – “1 pinch of sugar and 1 pinch of salt in 1 cup of warm water”
  • Goats’ milk

ALL feeds should be lukewarm
(24hrs of rehydration solution feeds is fine if milk replacement is difficult to obtain)
Allow to rest between feeds, only handle for feeding (for frequency see below)

Preventative measures:

  • Use rehydration solution for the first few feeds while you and the squirrel get used to feeding
  • Hold the squirrel vertically and leaning slightly forward whilst feeding
  • Always feed patiently, slowly and gently
  • Try to get the squirrel to lick/suck the fluids slowly rather than guzzling

Take to vet for antibiotics and other respiratory drugs if squirrel inhales fluids and starts coughing for any extended period of time, breathing heavily or breathing with mouth open

Introducing ‘milk’
1st feed – rehydration solution
2nd feed – rehydration solution
3rd feed – ½ rehydration solution, ½ goats’ milk
4th feed – ½ rehydration solution, ½ goats’ milk
5th feed – goats’ milk


  • syringe if tiny but be aware of aspiration pneumonia (mentioned above) and feed very slowly watching to check that the fawn swallows as you feed
  • ear/medicine dropper

Quantity &Frequency  (ROUGH guide)

Weight Approximate age Quantity per feed Frequency
40 g  weeks 1.5 ml 9 feeds per day
80 g  weeks 4 ml 7 feeds per day
120 g  weeks 8.5 ml 5 feeds per day

Theoretically kits may be fed up to 35-40% of body weight per day, depending on appetite
Table above is ROUGH guide, each individual is different
If they are unwilling to wake up and feed, extend the gap between feeds by ½ hour

For age determination, see photos on www.squirrelsandmore.com
Birth – blind, deaf, pink skin, 10 – 15g
First week – treading, clutching movements
2 weeks – makes alarm calls, fuzzy hair on body, bare limbs
3-4 wks – may be still blind, starts crawling around, small milk teeth,50-60g
5-6wks – eyes and ears open, furry, teeth,
7-9 wks – begin weaning, 100-130g
13 wks – independent
15 wks – 5kg, independent
Adult – 220-430g

Feed with squirrel standing on all fours or standing on back legs leaning forward
Feed very slowly watching to check that it swallows as you feed

Keep feeding utensils in a deep bowl of sterilising solution e.g. Milton
Use clean feeding utensils for each feed
After use, dismantle feeding equipment and clean thoroughly in warm soapy water, rinse, then replace in the sterilising bowl
Rinse utensils before each feed

Rehabilitation of wildlife casualties requires a licence and a large investment of time and resources. It is mainly in the animal’s best interest to transfer it to an appropriately trained and equipped individual/organisation as soon as possible.

Before attempting to capture a wildlife casualty:

  • Observe, assess, discuss, then decide whether intervention is appropriate
  • All wild animals can potentially transmit disease and inflict serious injuries
  • Remember, your own safety is of paramount importance

Initially, veterinary shor-line kennels with divider, if in intensive care
Warm, quiet and dimly lit area

Chewing on cage can damage their teeth and potentially ruin their chance of release
Ideally house in outdoor run with shelter, suggestions:

  • Outdoor aviary

Nest box for shelter, ideally small, wooden or rigid plastic, and draught free (similar to bird box)
Straw or hay for bedding inside the box
Fresh water for drinking
Logs and big leafy branches for hiding, enrichment, stress reduction and climbing
Located in quiet area away from large mammals

A balanced diet is essential
Supplement dry puppy food with greens – spinach/ curly kale, and nuts – hazel/pecan

Extra info for long term husbandry:

Weigh same time each day
Weight loss or static weight is an early indicator of underlying problems

The squirrel only needs to be kept warm when tiny and eyes closed, part of the box should be roughly 30˚C
Use heat mat or heat lamp
Only heat part of the cage so the cub can move away from the heat if necessary

Galvanized weldmesh or stainless steel
A nest box filled with paper or hay should be provided – wooden, designed with capture in mind
Baby squirrels will use a home-made hammock in their cage if provided!
Indoors until they are self feeding and independent, they should then be moved to a pre-release outdoor enclosure, see above, for them to exercise and acclimatise to the weather
Fresh water for drinking in heavy bowl and water bottle
Singly housed unless arrive as sibling group
Possibly share large outdoor aviary enclosure if provided with a nest box each

Rehydration solution – Lectade or equivalent
Vitamins must be added to the goats’ milk – calcium and phosphorus. Dip tip of teat in ‘Stress’ daily

Initially pipette with small teat
Move on to Catac bottle with only tiny hole in teat – squirrels suck voraciously

Feed with squirrel on all fours or standing on back legs leaning forward – slows down sucking

When 2-3 weeks of age, lively and teeth have come through
Farley’s Rusks for a few days then adult diet as above
Again – DO NOT feed sunflower seeds or peanuts

Routine records should be maintained of daily weight, times of each feed, quantities of milk consumed, urine/faeces production and general condition/demeanour

Normal urine – light yellow
Dark yellow – needs to be toileted more often
Thick and honey coloured – give rehydration solution to combat dehydration

Normal faeces while on milk – soft and deep yellow colour
On arrival faeces may be almost black and well formed

If faeces become bad, initially try withdrawing food for 24hrs and give only rehydration fluids
Sterilise all feeding equipment and slowly reintroduce milk
If faeces remain bad after 24hrs, seek veterinary attention

Easily done, potentially prevent release
ALWAYS rear more than one of a species together (not doing so will produce abnormal and dangerous behaviour)

Potential problems

  • Penis sucking (self-mutilation)

A particular problem associated with squirrels is penis sucking
Possibly as a comfort behaviour during periods of stress, but it can become a self-mutilation issue
A buster collar will need to be used to prevent access
Concentrated orange oil (from culinary suppliers, i.e. suitable for ingestion) dabbed around the area could be tried first as the taste may prevent further comfort sucking

  • Stereotypic behaviour

Squirrels caged for long periods can develop ‘to-and-fro’ or circling behaviour. All wildlife should be released as soon as possible and be given as large an enclosure as possible during captivity
Attention should be paid to providing sufficient enrichment materials, natural habitat, and an area they can retreat to in order to reduce stress

Always seek advice from specialist organisations with knowledge of suitable release sites/habitat

Careful assessment and appropriate health checks should be carried out prior to release, as to the risks of released animals introducing new diseases into the wild population/environment

Release criteria/considerations
Need to be wild – wary/scared of humans, domestic animals and any other natural predators
Must be physically fit, mentally sound, stable body weight for over 7 days
Can’t be released if underweight, unable to recognise/eat normal diet etc
Must be of an appropriate weight for the age, sex, and time of year for the species
Do not release in winter unless it has sufficient body weight to cope with the cold
Ideally return to original location unless dangerous or unsuitable
Release away from roads, species specific predators, areas where they could cause damage
Consider natural history of the animal and the location of local wild groups of these animals
Release during a period of favourable weather
Ideally identify animal in some way e.g. microchip/tag, for post release monitoring/identification

Preferred habitat
Broadleaf and mixed woodland, prefers coniferous woods. Squirrels eat cone seeds, buds, shoots, berries, fungi, fruit and nuts

HARD RELEASE (direct release)

Hard release technique
The animal is simply allowed to exit a transport container with no further care or feed provision.

Hard release candidates
Hard release technique only suitable if animal rescued as an adult and only if in captivity for short period of time, and only if to be released where originally found.

Release timing
Preferably release in Aug – Nov

Species specific considerations
Do not release near cultivated forestry
Do not release red squirrels into existing grey squirrel territory – potential parapoxvirus contraction.

Squirrels nest in a ‘drey’ which is made from twigs, grass and leaves, and spend most of their time high up in the trees.
Ideally return to exact location animal was rescued.
Open carrying cage and let animal leave in its own time.
If the squirrel cannot be released in the location where he was rescued a ‘hard release’ with nest box technique can be used:
On the day chosen for release, while still in captivity, close the opening to the nest box (that the squirrel sleeps in at night) before he emerges in the morning.
Bring squirrel in box to chosen forest and using ladder attach nest box high up in chosen tree.
Once box secured, uncover opening to nest box and leave.

SOFT RELEASE (gentle or gradual release)
Baby squirrels (sometimes adults)

Soft release technique
Soft release aims to slowly reintroduce the animal to the wild while still in a comfort zone e.g. cage it was reared in, and allow the animal to leave the cage once confident and independent.
It involves continuing to care for animals at the release site, and aims to compensate for difficulties of newly released animals finding food and shelter in a new environment.

Soft release candidates
Essential release method for hand reared animals.
If more than one young animal in care, if practicable, try to form a release group.
Release group – try to have mixed genders, appropriately matched age group.
Also suitable for adults that have been in care for a long period of time, or animals that cannot be released back to where they were found and so have to establish a new territory.

Release timing
Preferably release in Aug – Nov

Species specific considerations:
Ideally no less than 12 – 14 weeks of age
Do not release red squirrels into existing grey squirrel territory – potential parapoxvirus contraction

An enclosure/small aviary, complete with the squirrel’s nest box, needs to be taken to suitable release location
Squirrel should be provided with natural food – food that it will be looking for and eating in the wild
Leave squirrel for up to several weeks in the enclosure until squirrel is comfortable in the enclosure and has adapted to the new environment
When a mild weather forecast is predicted, the enclosure door should be opened and left open
Leave enclosure in situ and continue small amount of supplementary feeding for as long as squirrel keeps returning to feed
Eventually the squirrel will have built its own nest, gained full independence and will stop returning to the enclosure
Soft release may take days – months

Red Squirrel

*Compulsory licence details at end of document*

Let us not waste time complaining about the excessive bureaucratic legislation covering wildlife today. The intent was to provide protection for wildlife and the data is valuable.

If we don’t want to be legislated upon, or don’t like current legislation, we must offer legislative solutions. Apply for your licences but also email  your ideas for a more practicable solution for ‘policing wildlife rehabilitation’ in Ireland, to info@irishwildlifematters.ie


Irish Wildlife Act 1976 and Wildlife (Amendment) Act 2000 – protected species
Berne Convention, Appendix 3
Irish Red Data book – Near Threatened
Wildlife (N.I.) Order of 1985 – protected species

The Minister may grant a licence to capture or kill for educational, scientific or other purposes

May not be hunted or killed or their breeding places disturbed.

Rescue and Rehabilitation
Due to their status as a protected species, a *licence MUST be applied for to the NPWS ‘to possess/retain an injured or disabled wild bird/animal’

Subject to the conditions set out in the licence provided for the possession/retention of a wild bird/animal
(N.I) you must not release any non-native species of bird or animal into the wild unless you obtain a licence to do so (including foreign animals that have become established here, e.g. grey squirrel/mink)

Report any suspicious activities or equipment to the NPWS Conservation Ranger (see contacts page) 

LEGISLATION – Grey Squirrel

Classified as a pest species so no protective legislation

Irish Red Data book – least concern
Legal status – none

Classified as a pest species and may be hunted all year round

Wildlife Order N.I – no hunting on Sundays or on Christmas Day
May not be killed or taken by certain methods or sold dead or alive at any time
Shooting of wildlife for pleasure or sport is not permitted in National Parks or Nature Reserves owned by the State

Rescue and Rehabilitation
No licence required

No licence so no legislation

Report suspicious activities or equipment to the NPWS Conservation Ranger (see CONTACTS page) 

* For licence application form for the possession/ retention of a wild animal – click HERE

Post to the address below OR email to wildlifelicence@chg.gov.ie

Wildlife Licence Unit
National Parks and Wildlife Service
Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht
90 King Street North
Dublin 7
D07 N7CV

Phone: (064) 662 7300
Email: wildlifelicence@chg.gov.ie

Squirrelpox virus

Clinical Signs – emaciated. Red, exudative lesions. Ulcerated, bleeding crusty lesions, mainly around eyes, may have caused blindness. Lesions also on ventral body, medial skin on legs, paws and genitals
Diagnosis –electron microscopy of lesions
Treatment – antibiotics, antifungal agents, analgesics and fluids. Infected eyes may necessitate hand- feeding
Comments – greys are carriers, high mortality in reds

Adenovirus-associated disease

Clinical Signs – intestinal infection leading to diarrhoea, splenic necrosis and finally death
Diagnosis –electron microscopy of lesions
Treatment – supportive treatment, fluids and anti-diarrhoeal agents
Comments – mainly diagnosed in red squirrels found dead – characteristic grey pasty looking intestinal contents

Bacterial enteritis (Salmonella spp. Campylobacter spp.)

Clinical Signs –diarrhoea
Diagnosis –faecal culture
Treatment – supportive treatment, fluids and anti-diarrhoeal agents. Antibiotics based on sensitivity results and used with caution due to toxicity from disruption of normal microbial flora
Comments – care with antibiotic dose rates

Metabolic bone disease, MBD (calcium deficiency)

Clinical Signs – lethargic, weak, hunched – curvature of the spine, thin uneven cortices of long bones and course trabeculation
Diagnosis –radiography
Treatment – get calcium supplement containing Vit D and Vit D3 into the squirrel IMMEDIATELY
If seizures are present they should stop within a few hours of treatment but paralysis won’t correct as quickly, if at all
Remove ALL seeds, nuts, and corn (phos foods). Feed only high calcium foods e.g. dry Science Diet for dogs, or rodent pellets
The new diet will probably be resisted but it’ll be eaten eventually!
First 7 days, 1/8 tsp calcium once a day (crush tablets to powder and rub into slices of ripe avocado)
2nd week 1/8 tsp for 5 days
3rd week 1/8 tsp for 4 days
4th week, calcium supplement should no longer be necessary. Begin to reintroduce add small handful of sunflower seeds or a couple of nuts daily
5th week – should be ready for release

Comments – a diet consisting solely of seeds, nuts and corn (all high in phosphorous) will cause MBD. Excess phosphorous blocks the absorption of calcium

Road Traffic Accident

Clinical Signs – commonly fractures, spinal or limb
Diagnosis – examination and radiographs
Treatment – treat as for shock. Temporary splint and pain relief. Surgery once stabilised
Comments – euthanize if amputation required. Remove metalwork before release.  Often young greys fall from trees

Bite wounds

Clinical Signs – heat, swelling, pain, puncture wound or laceration, abscess.
Diagnosis – clinical signs
Treatment – if abscess; drain and treat as open abscess. Fluids as for shock. Broad spectrum antibiotics. Corticosteroids if signs of endotoxaemia. Regular flushing of wound
Fresh open clean woundsClip, clean and suture if necessary. Use subcuticular suturing and absorbable suture material
Comments – likely to be infected, possibly septicaemic. Careful use of antibiotics. Greys can be caught by cats, seldom reds

Ectoparasites – fleas, lice, sheep ticks, mites

Clinical Signs – mild. Patchy alopecia from lice, mites and fleas
Diagnosis – clinical signs, microscopy, skin scrapes
Treatment – fipronil or ivermectin
Comments – could cause a problem if squirrel already sick

Coccidiosis (Eimeria spp.)

Clinical Signs – diarrhoea
Diagnosis – faecal parasitology
Treatment – sulphonamides
Comments – most reds are hosts

Notoedric and Sarcoptic mange (Notoedres centrifera  and Sarcoptes scabiei)

Clinical Signs – bald patches, especially around the abdominal and inguinal regions, and dry, thickened and dark skin
Diagnosis – skin scrapings
Treatment – aggressive fluid therapy for few days for stabilisation, then ivermectin or doramectin
laurabolin – anabolic steroids
Comments – mainly notoedric mites on squirrels. Notoedric mites are not transmissible to humans. Sarcoptes zoonosis. Adult squirrels can survive mange if in otherwise good condition. Mange can be fatal as a result of exposure during the winter


Clinical Signs – overgrown incisors due to misaligned or damaged teeth
Diagnosis – clinical signs
Treatment – shorten incisors, possibly surgery if due to trauma
Comments – will overgrow again if misalignment not rectified. Un-releasable if untreatable

Eye problems

Clinical Signs – lens opacity
Diagnosis – clinical signs
Treatment – sometimes due to dehydration and poor nutrition, rectify these things and wait
Comments –releasable with only one eye, not if blind in both eyes


  • Blind
  • Malocclusion resulting in regular dental attention being required
  • No quality of life when recovered


  • Pentobarbital sodium


  • General anaesthetic then IV or IP injection

Drugs & Dosages
SC between shoulder blades, or dorsal/lateral thorax
IM quadriceps
IO tibial crest or trochanteric fossa
IP centre of caudal quadrant of abdomen
IV femoral, or midline ventral tail
PO in food
Temperature (°C) 37 – 40. May drop considerably in line with environmental conditions
Pulse rate (beats per minute) 259. Rates of free-ranging animals are likely to be lower. Other Sciurus species have a range of 159 to 450
Respiratory rate (breaths per minute)

Handling for examination
Ideally observe discreetly before examination; wildlife hide injuries
Squirrels are unique in ‘breath-holding’ when under stress, esp. during physical examination. They become immobile and have a fixed stare. If this happens place in dark box in quiet place immediately
Squirrels are surprisingly strong and fast movers
They have a nasty bite and sharp claws
Gauntlets are recommended
A squirrel handling cone or cat crush cage can be used for examination
Try not to change grip when handling

Admission procedures

  • Weigh
  • Warm up
  • If baby squirrel; stimulate to urinate/defecate
  • Fluids
  • Drugs

RTA casualties will often be suffering volume related shock, treat as below

Treatment for shock

  • Warmth (stop animal loosing heat, warm slowly)
  • IV fluids – Hartmann’s or Haemaccel
  • Oxygen as required
  • Analgesia (if head trauma do not use buprenorphine , finadyne or carprofen)

Steroids (ONLY if CNS trauma e.g. ‘Solu medrone V’ or dexamethasone)
Antibiotics if appropriate, IV
After treatment for shock, attend to conditions that are life threatening or could worsen over 24hrs

Assess every few hours. As soon as stable, examine thoroughly, and decide on a treatment plan or euthanise as appropriate

Squirrels, like other rodents, don’t vomit – starvation unnecessary
During anaesthesia provide heat and SC fluids
Isoflurane, via facemask, – GA
Ketamine – one hr sedation
Ketamine and medetomidine – GA