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By California Council for Wildlife Rehabilitators

Every year wildlife rehabilitators across the nation receive orphaned and/or injured baby tree squirrels because they have lost their nest trees due to tree trimming and removal. Tree squirrels typically mate twice a year and have their young around January/February and July/August. Destroying a squirrel’s nest is illegal in California.

  • Look before you start!
  • Check trees before trimming.
  • Delay trimming until there are no active nests in the tree.

The family lives in a leaf nest (drey) which is usually high in the tree and close to the trunk. It often looks like a pile of dead leaves in the V of a tree. The baby squirrels will stay with their moms in the nest for about four months which leaves a short period when trees can be safely removed without disturbing them.

Before trimming or tree removal, check the tree for nests, mother does not cover them up so the babies can be easily seen in the nest. Look for active bird nests also. If the tree has to be trimmed, trim around the nest, being careful not to disturb. Mom will run off but should return as soon as the activity subsides and take care of her babies.

If a nest does come down, try to carefully place it in another part of the tree and watch to see if the mom squirrel returns to care for the young. If babies fall out of a nest and are not injured or cold, they can be placed at the base of the tree (as long as pets and children are kept away) and mom should come and retrieve them. Mom will not take a cold baby so it needs to be warmed up before putting out again. If mom does not come back to care for them within 4 hours, locate the nearest rehabilitator to care for them. Always use caution when handling wildlife.

California Code of Regulations (CCR) Title 14 Section 251.1- Harrassment of Animals. Except as otherwise authorized in these regulations or in the Fish and Game Code, no person shall harass, herd or drive any game or non-game bird or mammal or furbearing mammal. For the purposes of this section, harass is defined as an intentional act which disrupts an animal’s normal behavior patterns, which includes, but is not limited to, breeding, feeding, or sheltering. This section does not apply to a landowner or tenant who drives or herds birds or mammals for the purpose of preventing damage to private or public property, including aquaculture and agriculture crops.