Tonawanda News — The SPCA Serving Erie County could use a bit of help with some tiny orphans this spring.
Dawn Mazierski, wildlife services associate, said the SPCA is seeking foster homes for an expected influx of baby gray squirrels this spring. Volunteers do not need to be licensed for wildlife rehabilitation ... just have time, patience and interest.
“We don’t typically ask, because it can be really time-consuming,” she said. “But this year we hope we can get at least a few people to help out. It’s always been a big stressor for us, because they take a good bit of time.”
Foster parents must make a commitment to feeding the babies five or more times a day, and provide a space at their home that is quiet and without domestic pets. The SPCA will provide housing for the young squirrels, food, any medications, gloves for the caretaker and training.
“It’s really just an interest and time that they need,” Mazierski said.
Once babies start arriving at the SPCA — generally mid-March — foster parents will be set up with a small litter initially, she said. Training consists of an initial one- or two-hour session for volunteers to become comfortable with the materials, then one-on-one training once an appropriate litter is available.
“I think with the milder winters we’ve been having, more and more squirrels are making it through the winter,” Mazierski said. “It just seems like we get slammed with more and more squirrels each year. ... Typically we give mom the opportunity to reclaim her young, but sometimes they’re definitely orphaned or sick or a dog found them or something like that.”
It’s key that feeding time is all the babies get, she said. “It’s extremely important. We don’t want them cuddling and coochie-cooing these squirrels. We don’t want a squirrel who’s going to walk up to someone; that’s an unreleasable squirrel.”
That said, feeding alone can be time-consuming, depending on the number in the litter and their ages.
“As you can see, it’s difficult to find people who work from home or are retired,” Mazierski said. “Typically bosses wouldn’t like it if their employees bring squirrels to work.”
It’s not without its benefits, however. Mazierski herself has cared for as many as a dozen orphaned squirrel babies at a time.
“It’s incredibly rewarding,” she said. “They’re usually really hardy, but to see one come in that’s really dehydrated and frail and to know later that you had a part in its survival, it’s really something something special.”
To volunteer or for more information, call 343-2535 or visit www.yourspca.org/wildlife.TO HELP To learn more, call Dawn Mazierski, SPCA wildlife services associate, at 343-2535 or visit www.yourspca.org/wildlife.