Since this baby squirrel’s eyes are still closed, staff members estimate that she is about 4 weeks old. The squirrel fell from its nest in Gaithersburg and was bruised and cold when she was brought to the center. Baby squirrels need to be fed several times a day, depending on their age and condition. It takes practice to be sure the squirrel formula flows slowly so the animal doesn’t aspirate, Courtney Thomas says. The center is often at capacity during the winter and unable to take in additional squirrels. Photo by Laura Chase De Formigny
Wildlife rescue adviser Tyler Meiners answers about 5,500 calls and emails a year, often from people asking what to do about a baby bird, squirrel or rabbit they’ve found. Meiners tells people not to give wild animals food or water because both can make them sicker. He says the best thing to do is put the animal in a box with a lid and bring it in. When someone drops off an animal, the person is asked to fill out an admission form with details on where the animal was found, how it was cared for, and signs of injury or illness. “A lot of people don’t know it’s actually illegal to keep a wild animal and try to nurse it back to health themselves,” Second Chance President Maureen Smith says. The center operates under permits from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. By law, most of the rehabilitated animals must be returned to the area where they were found. Photo by Laura Chase De Formigny
Dropping off an injured or sick animal is often a family affair, so the center offers children a sticker when they leave as a thank you for doing their part to help a creature in need. Sometimes it can be difficult for kids to let their “new pets” go, says Tyler Meiners, who has a degree in wildlife and animal behavior and has been interested in animals from a young age. Meiners tries to provide age-appropriate explanations about why it’s in the best interest of the animal to leave it at the center. It can be tricky if the injuries are severe and the animal doesn’t survive. “Some kids understand. Some get upset. Some have a ton of questions,” he says. Photo by Laura Chase De Formigny