Baby squirrels fell from trees in Virginia during the high winds of tropical storm Hermine and rescue groups are working to rehabilitate them.
Officials with rescue groups said more than 220 baby squirrels were blown from their nests in the Virginia Beach area during the storm that hit the area over Labor Day weekend.
The Virginia Beach Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (VBSPCA) took in about 78 and two other local rescue groups took in about 100.
“I was like a drug dealer,” said Evelyn Flengas, who runs a wildlife refuge in the Virginia Beach area. “There was a steady stream of cars coming down the driveway with boxes filled with little critters.” She said her group took in about 50 squirrels, plus seven baby raccoons and a handful of rabbits.
Flengas said the baby squirrels were brought in by area residents who found them under leaves or in shrubs. Strong winds from storms often blow them out of the nest. The mother squirrels may try to find them and take them back to the nest but if they don’t, they’re alone.
Baby squirrels generally are born two times a year — around late August or early September and in the early spring. That’s why so many were found around this time, squirrel rehab experts said.
Rescuers said it is not uncommon for small animals in the wild to be displaced in storms. But with Hermine, more animals were displaced than usual.
“When we hear of a nor’easter or hurricane coming I dread it,” said Flengas. She said Hermine was “far worse” than previous storms in terms of displacing wildlife.
Some of the squirrels fell from nests as high as 40 feet, rescuers said. The squirrels are only a few days to a few weeks old and they’re fragile, and tiny — weighing about as much as a metal teaspoon. Because their skulls are the heaviest part of their body, they are prone to head injuries in falls, experts said.
Some landed on their heads but they’re resilient, Flengas said. A local veterinarian put a splint on the broken femur of one of the rescued squirrels, according to Flengas, who helps rehab them with her husband, Jim, and volunteers.
The rescued squirrels at the five-acre property Flengas runs are fed a powder formula, similar to their mother’s milk, through a syringe.
It can take, in some cases, as long as 12 to 14 weeks to rehab the squirrels before they are let go into the wild.
“There’s a lot to it,” she said. “It is not just taking in an animal and feeding it.”
In their rehab process they are given antibiotics, put in incubators and given a mix of food, including trail mix, peanuts and “rodent chew” — a mix of vitamins and minerals.
Flengas said sometimes they don’t like it, so she coats it with peanut butter.
She’s nicknamed one of the rescued raccoons Ozzy after singer Ozzy Osbourne.
“He screams just like Ozzy when he wants formula,” she said. “He knows that if he screams, he gets attention.”