By Jen Mannas, Wildlife Naturalist
There are seven species of squirrels that inhabit Washington and PAWS is no stranger to caring for some of these species. We receive hundreds of squirrels every year.
Currently we're caring for more than 75 young squirrels. They begin their care in our small mammal nursery where they are fed by our volunteers. Each squirrel in the nursery has to be fed three to five times a day depending on how old he is. Multiply that by 75 and that calculates to over 225 feedings a day!
Each feeding can take anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes per squirrel depending on how well they drink from the syringe. During the busiest part of baby squirrel season at PAWS, when we are at squirrel capacity, that equates to over 75 hours of volunteer time, on average, per day. Thanks to our stellar volunteers we are able to feed more than one squirrel at once.
A volunteer syringe-feeds a baby squirrel
Some very special squirrel patients we receive almost every year are Northern Flying Squirrels. Typically we receive youngsters who have fallen from their nest cavity at night and are discovered on the ground the next morning.
They are very tricky eaters and are fed by staff only at first until they get the hang of the syringes. They are small, soft, have large eyes and are a favorite among our volunteers. We only receive two to five each year but they leave a lasting impression.
Northern Flying Squirrel patients at PAWS
Here's some information about these inhabitants of the night sky:
They're between 10 and 12 inches long
- They are most active at night
- They have a membrane that connects their front and back legs called a patagium, which allows them to glide (not fly) between trees
- They are omnivores and eat foods including seeds, nuts, fungi, fruit and insects
- They prefer coniferous and mixed coniferous forests
- They are superb gliders making them escape artists from predators
- Their biggest predator is owls, specifically Spotted Owls
- They can live up to five years in the wild
- Their offspring rely on the female for care for two months
And perhaps the most impressive fact of all... they can glide 80 to 150 feet at once!
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