At Chaitraban, when all our efforts of reuniting the orphaned squirrel babies with their mom didn’t work, we started to pack them for their journey to their new home in the city. We found the softest sheets we could find and wrapped them in to keep them warm in a small bamboo basket. The babies were hardly making a noise now and seemed to be very tired after the ordeal and trauma. None of us knew the first thing of looking after these tiny babies (they were not more than a small finger, in size!). But instinct told us that they must me dehydrated. Finally we decided to try and feed them some milk (which is a mistake, we read later on http://www.squirreltales.org). How do we feed them!? The mouth was so tiny that we could hardly make out if they had teeth. We tried feeding them with a small spoon because that was all we had then. If it didn’t work, we had a backup plan of dipping a clean rag in the mik for them to suck on. But the spoon idea worked and they licked the milk from the spoon, slowly at first and then, very hungrily dipping their whole mouth in the milk and holding the spoon with their hands!!! We had never been so excited and happy before. With warm milk in their gently rounded tummies, they slept soundly all the way till we reached home. We packed them in a basket for the night and we crashed too.
Next morning, I went about browsing on the internet to search for information on how to look after the new babies we had adopted. Friends lent a helping hand too and to our surprise we found quite a few people had had similar experiences with squirrel babies. And the good news was most of them had been able to release them in the wild when they were grown up and strong enough to be on their own. With more enthusiasm, we started preparing for their stay at our home.
We named them ‘Chip’ and ‘Dale’. Both had very different personalities. Dale was the smaller of the two and the one we had rescued from Shadow’s mouth. He seemed to be still under trauma of the day before and was hardly drinking milk. Chip on the other hand, was hungrily holding on the syringe and slurping up the warm milk. Dale was more timid while Chip was very frisky and had already started exploring his surroundings (more of my hand) more. We fed them every four hours and they slept all the time between feeds in their box-bedroom padded with soft cotton. We made a visit to the vet’s clinic and he advised us to let the babies eat what they wanted since they were almost old enough to know their food by instinct, once we made it available. This was a relief since we planned to rehabilitate them at Chaitraban and did not want them to get used to artificial foods and formulas (generally, websites did recommend nutrition formulas).
Chip and Dale did not still eat the fruits and nuts we kept for them but the vet assured us they soon will. Diluted milk would work for a couple of days more till they adjusted to their new home. Fortunately, they could already manage their small and big business, almost all on their own. (Younger pink babies need help with that too! But their mothers do their job by stimulation when she licks them to keep them clean. BTW, squirrels are the cleanest of all rodents).
In only a day, they became active and tiny movements were fun to watch. They made their small abode more comfortable by arranging the cotton as they wanted, to make a deep hollow, and then rolled up the cotton into soft balls to close the opening once they went in to sleep. They looked so cute and tiny all rolled up and hugging each other.
It is the third day today and they know my hand to climb on it when they know its time for chow. Dale, the smaller baby sleeps in my hand and wakes up if I move. Like a good mommy, I slowly remove my glove and he sleeps soundly on it.
For now, they only drink warm milk and sleep between feeds, for almost four hours. They love to bask in the morning sun, but again go back to their soft cushioned bed to grow stronger to play, in the days to come…
Chip and Dale were healthy and strong enough to be released in their forever home at Chaitraban. They visited us once. They responded when I called them and stood at a distance for some time and ran away. We really miss them but I was so glad that I could see them once after we released them. And I am sure they are happy with families of their own now!