A few years ago we became foster parents to a very unusual baby...
One afternoon, while sitting in the kitchen, the children and I heard the most almighty scream outside. Running to the window we surveyed the garden for activity. The cat was under the hedge playing with a small creature of some description. Judging by terrible shrieks echoing around the house I thought that it must be a baby rabbit (as I have heard them make a similar sound when caught by a fox). We all went dashing outside and shooed the cat away. There laying on the grass was the tiniest little squirrel, still making a lot of noise but seemingly unharmed by the cats advances.
I asked my son to run in and get an old tea towel, so I could pick it up, as I was unsure whether having human scent on it would somehow impede its mother's natural instinct on taking it back, as with birds. It was clear that this was a very, very young little squirrel, and needed to be back in its nest. I rang the RSPCA for advice. They were a little uninterested to say the least and suggested that I put it close to where I thought the nest would be and soon enough its mother would appear and take it back.
After laying it on a safe place in a tree we all waited patiently for the mother to return, periodically checking that it was ok. We waited.... Waited....and waited but there was no sign of its family and after 3 hours decided to seek some more advice.
I looked up squirrel rescue on the net, and found a place in Hampshire that was very helpful. The gentleman said that by the sound of it, the squirrel must be around 6 weeks old and therefore not yet weaned. He also said that unfortunately the mother would not return and if we wanted to save it, the only hope would be if I became its surrogate mother! He went on to explain the recipe for its milk, and it would need feeding every 3 hours. We would also have to rub gently its bottom so that it would be able to poo!! (this, as you can imagine was very alarming to the boys)
I decided that I would take on this unexpected role and after the children made a nice little bed in an old hamster cage we had, proceeded to the local supermarket to get the ingredients; goats milk, natural yogurt and baby liquid vitamins. I also picked up a ‘dropper' from the pharmacy in order to feed it.
We where dedicated as a family to getting our squirrel, now aptly named ‘Nutkins' to adulthood and so embarked on a regular feeding schedule. I remember having my alarm clock wake me up at 2am and then at 5, going downstairs and warming the milk and feeding little Nutkins in the dark of night. I also remember going out for a day trip to Dover Castle, amongst others, having the cage with dear little Nutkins in the boot, so that I could run back and feed him! That baby squirrel was fastly becoming the best travelled in the world.
After a few months we put him in a large cage in the garden changed his diet to seeds and taught him how to open nuts (this apparently doesn't come naturally and is learnt from the mother... us)!
Finely, after several months we left the cage open, and he would go in and out, until one day he finely went altogether.
We were sad to see him go, but were so happy to have been able to save him. For a while he would regularly come back and visit us, and we would feed him his sunflower seeds (of which he was most fond) and he would play with us, climbing on our heads and running up our arms jumping through the trees, as if he were showing off his new skills... I am aware that many people veiw squirrels as vermin and woulnt have done the same, but as far as I am concerned, it was a little life that was well worth saving. Although we haven't seen him for a while now, I like to believe he is now a father himself and is enjoying life in the wild which at times when I feel a little low gives me a warm feeling inside.