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What to do if storms blow squirrel nests to ground

Gray squirrel: Pausing long enough to consult a wildlife professional before moving or caring for the animal can greatly increase its chance of survival.

Oct. 11. It’s hurricane season, and with it comes the potential for severe weather. It’s also the time of year that gray squirrels, North Carolina’s state mammal, are raising their second brood of the year.

Storms that produce high winds and heavy rain, as well as tree-cutting and trimming activity, can lead to young squirrels and their nests falling out of high perches. When this happens, the NC Wildlife Resources Commission receives  reports from concerned citizens who have found grounded young squirrels and want to know how to help.

Wait for Mrs. Squirrel

“A good practice is not to assume immediate intervention is the best way to help,” explains Falyn Owens, extension biologist for the Wildlife Commission.

A directory of licensed wildlife rehabilitators who specialize in caring for injured or orphaned wildlife can be found on the Wildlife Commission website.  These professionals help people take the right action in a wildlife encounter, including when it’s best not to intervene. When it comes to a young squirrel that has fallen out of the nest, they’ll usually recommend allowing some time for the mother to retrieve it.

“Humans simply are not as good at taking care of young wildlife as their mothers and not all young animals found by themselves have been abandoned,” stated Owens.


She described that when a squirrel’s nest is disturbed and the young fall out, the female works as fast as she can to find her young and carry them back to the nest. If the nest is destroyed, she’ll build a new nest first, then bring them to the new nest. If a young squirrel is removed from the area before the female retrieves it, the chances of it surviving are significantly reduced.

Although people mean well, handling wild animals, particularly very young ones, can do more harm than good – and taking one home is illegal.

People can also contact the NC Wildlife Helpline  at 866-318-2401 or check for advice on how to help injured or orphaned wildlife, handle wildlife conflict issues and more. Helpline hours are  8 am to 5 pm Monday to  Friday.