Accommodation of Casualty Squirrels (Wildlife Casualty Management)

Summary Information
Type of technique Health & Management / UK Wildlife Casualty Management/ Techniques:
Synonyms and Keywords N.B.  This information should be read in association with Wildlife Casualty Accommodation which contains background information together with links to the Electronic Library and Organisations (UK Contacts). The related Species pages contain similar linkages.
Description This page has been prepared for the "UK Wildlife: First Aid and Care" Wildpro module, and is designed for the needs of the following species: Sciurus carolinensis - Eastern grey squirrel, Sciurus vulgaris - Eurasian red squirrel.

These species are within the family Sciuridae.

  • Squirrels are excellent escapologists that can gnaw and destroy cage furniture, and climb very well. Accommodation must be escape-proof.

Transport Container:

  • Wire mesh cage (e.g. cat carrying basket) is preferable to a box (B151, D25)
  • Cardboard and wooden containers may be gnawed through and should be avoided. (B151)
  • Ensure adequate bedding in the container allowing to hide in it, and to soak up urine.
  • Containers for long journeys should always be metal to avoid the squirrel gnawing out.(D25)

Short term (Immediate/Emergency) Accommodation:

  • Squirrels can be very destructive; robust caging is required.
  • Wire mesh cage such as a cat carrying basket may be used.
  • Box or hamster cage may be used.
    • Picnic/freezer box is useful for intensive care since insulated and smooth sides prevent climbing.
  • Tight-fitting lid (mesh for solid-sided containers) should be present on all containers.
  • Provide clean dry bedding such as newspaper covered by a towel.
  • Provide supplementary heat if necessary using a heat lamp or heat mat. Care must be taken to avoid overheating or burns, particularly in a collapsed animal which is unable to move away from a heat source.
  • (D25)

Medium-term (Hospitalisation) Accommodation:

  • Metal aviary-type cage or solid concrete pen with small-mesh wire door are suggested.
  • Logs and tall branches should be provided for moving on and exercise, also for gnawing.
  • Bedding such as sawdust and hay is recommended
  • Provide a small hide box (nest box) for seclusion.
  • (D24, B151)

Long-term (Rehabilitation and Permanent) Accommodation:

  • Outdoor aviary-type cages are suggested.
  • A safety porch (double-door) system should be used to minimise the risk of escape.
  • Secure wire netting with a small gauge should be used for construction.
  • Wire should be buried to a reasonable depth to prevent escape; alternatively the aviary may be built on a concrete base which is then covered with soil.
  • Ample natural vegetation (trees and bushes) should be provided for climbing and exercise within the aviary, and to allow gnawing.
  • Ensure no agrochemicals are used in the aviary.
  • Provide at least one nest box per animal in the aviary.

(B151, D25, V.w5, V.w26)

Appropriate Use (?)
  • Short-term (Immediate / Emergency) Accommodation is designed to be used for a short period of time only, e.g. prior to examination, to allow basic first-aid to be carried out, while an animal requires intensive care, or while specialist accommodation is being prepared.
    • The most important requirements are warmth, quiet and dark or dim lighting.
  • Medium-term (Hospitalisation) Accommodation is designed for the short-term care of individual animals or groups of animals, particularly during treatment and rehabilitation.
    • Hospital accommodation is commonly constructed with hygiene and easy cleaning as the main considerations, but the specific needs of the patients, including behavioural needs, should also be considered.
  • Long-term (Rehabilitation and Permanent) Accommodation facilities for wildlife are generally larger and more complex than accommodation designed only for temporary occupancy.
    • In general this type of accommodation is not suitable for animals which require daily treatment.
    • A period in rehabilitation accommodation is important when an animal has been hospitalised for some time.
  • Accommodation must be escape-proof once squirrel is active.
  • Make sure any accommodation has good ventilation.
  • Keep bedding clean and dry.
  • If an animal is maintained in long-term care accommodation for a substantial period of time, the animal must have some form of environmental enrichment to encourage natural behaviours (possibly through food presentation techniques, cage furniture that encourages activity, or play items that would be found in its native environment). This is to reduce the risk of boredom as the animal becomes accustomed to its enclosure and the possible development of behavioural problems. (V.w6)
Complications/ Limitations / Risk
  • Cardboard and wooden containers may be gnawed through (B151)
Equipment / Chemicals required and Suppliers
  • Cages for short to medium term accommodation may be bought from animal care suppliers.
  • Most materials required for the construction of cages and rehabilitation enclosures may be obtained from standard fencing or farm-equipment stores.
Expertise level / Ease of Use
  • Construction of long-term accommodation may require some expertise.
Cost/ Availability
  • Cost of construction of suitable long-term accommodation may be considerable; cost is generally proportional to the durability of materials used.
Legal and Ethical Considerations
  • The Grey Squirrels (Prohibition of Importation and Keeping) Order 1973: under the Destructive Imported Animals Act 1932 prohibits the keeping of grey squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis - Grey squirrel) without a licence. (J35.147.w1).
  • Accommodation for casualty wild animals should be designed to minimise the stress on the animal and to minimise the risk of injury to that animal.
  • A wild animal in captivity is protected under the same welfare legislation as domestic animals, e.g. Protection of Animals Acts 1911-2000; under this legislation it is an offence to treat a captive animal cruelly or to cause it unnecessary suffering.
    • This includes an obligation to provide proper attention and care.
    • The keeper has a duty to keep all wildlife casualties in a fit manner, in accommodation of a size which allows reasonable movement and with an environment suitable for its normal way of life.
    • (J35.147.w1, P19.2.w1, D27, D28)
  • Accommodation which does not fulfil the physiological and psychological requirements of the animal and results in an inadequate level of fitness at the time of release may seriously compromise the survival ability of that animal. Release of an animal which is unfit may be an offence under the Abandonment of Animals Act 1960. (J35.147.w1, W5.Jan01)
  • Risks to human health, both physical and risk of zoonotic illness must be minimised: Health and Safety at Work, etc. Act 1974.
  • An offence may be committed under article 14 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 if a species on Schedule 9 of that Act ( e.g. Sciurus carolinensis - Grey squirrel), or a species not ordinarily resident in the UK is allowed to escape from accommodation in which it is being housed.
  • See: Legislation relating to Wildlife Casualties.
Author Debra Bourne
Referee Becki Lawson and Suzanne Boardman

Return to Top of Page