In late September 2011, four baby Red Squirrels were found by a member of the public in a bush in North Saanich. These late-born squirrels were having trouble breathing and were very cold, thin and dehydrated. Strangely, all four had lost most of their fur, suffering from parasitic infestation. In critical condition, they were immediately brought to BC SPCA Wild ARC.
On arrival, they were warmed up and given fluids to address the dehydration. After a couple of days once they were stable, they were given an anti-parasitic drug to kill the parasites that had left them almost naked. It took several days to bring them back to health and unfortunately, two squirrels were too weak to recover and passed away. The two remaining squirrels showed signs of improvement and after a couple of weeks they started eating on their own and regaining strength.
As the two squirrels were maturing, they became more and more difficult to handle, to the point where staff could not catch them without them putting up a struggle - a sign they were on the path to recovery! Their fur started growing back slowly, but it was now November. Without being fully-furred and no time to cache food for the winter, the pair could not be released before the spring.
Knowing they would be in care for the winter, Wild ARC staff and volunteers made sure the squirrels had a habitat in care similar to the one they were going to be released in. They were provided with enrichment that allowed them to behave and cache food just as they would in nature. Once their fur grew back fully, they were transferred to their outdoor wintering-enclosure, where they spent the next five months.
On April 30th 2012, once the temperature was warmer and vegetation had started growing back, the two Red Squirrels were caught for the last time. Once ear-tagged and comfortably contained in their squirrel houses built by a Wild ARC volunteer, they were taken to East Sooke Park for release.
Their houses were nailed on two separate trees, some distance apart to allow them to have their own space and territory.
The trip was a little stressful since the squirrels did not leave their house by the time staff left the scene.
But now with a forest full of new spring foliage and forage, the squirrels are set to have a much more successful experience this year!
The BC SPCA is a non-profit organization funded primarily by public donations. Our mission is to prevent cruelty and to promote the welfare of animals through a wide range of services, including cruelty investigations, emergency rescue and treatment, sheltering and adoption of homeless and abused animals, humane education, advocacy, farm animal welfare, spay/neuter programs, and wildlife rescue and rehabilitation.