Would you let your kids play with squirrels? - Mothering Forums
View Poll Results: Would you let your kids play with squirrels?
Sure, I would let my kids play with squirrels, including feeding them and petting them 16 7.92%
I would let them feed them, but not touch them in any way 57 28.22%
NO WAY, I would have nothing to do with them. 122 60.40%
Other, please explain 7 3.47%
Voters: 202. You may not vote on this poll

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#1 of 58 Old 03-17-2010, 07:09 PM - Thread Starter
 
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So, we have baby squirrels up at the top of our chimney. We had heard them chirping and squeaking and my two boys, 4.5 and 3yo, have really had fun looking up at them and talking about them. Today we were outside, and one finally scaled down the chimney and onto the roof...went in the gutter...and then jumped off into a bush! We were not 6 feet away when all of this happened, so the kids are so excited and giddy about all of it. When the squirrel came out of the bush, it gravitated towards our feet! It wasn't scared or anything, the kids were giggling and kind of running around, half nervous, but interested. The squirrel would stop and the boys would crouch down a foot away to check him out. Each of them pet its tail before I could even tell them not to and before long, this squirrel is just following them around! Very cool, but I'm kind of nervous! I am in no way an outdoorsy type person, so I have no idea if this is totally dangerous or unsafe or unsanitary or what. My husband came out and discovered the squirrel, oh wait, now two squirrels, and he is totally enamored with them. DH would take in any animal as a pet...he even suggested we potty train this squirrel and let it live with us! (no thanks!!) But now they are out there feeding the squirrels sunflower seeds and spinach and it's quite adorable. But these squirrels are like climbing on my kids shoes and legs until my dh gets them off, and I'm just not sure how I feel about it! It's super fun, but I don't want to be foolish.

So, would you let your kids play with the squirrels and possible keep them around outside as "pets?" Or would you say, NO WAY!?!

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#2 of 58 Old 03-17-2010, 07:15 PM
 
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That sounds so adorable! But not really safe for your kids OR for the squirrels. Squirrels can be very aggressive, and deliver a nasty bite. They're cute and furry, but they are wild animals. They can also carry parasites and diseases.

From the squirrels' side, taking away a wild animal's natural fear of humans puts that animal at terrible risk of harm. And feeding them makes them dependent on humans for food -- at this age, they need to learn to forage. For their own safety, it's better not to interact with them at all.

I know all this, but I have to admit that in your place I'd have a hard time not petting the friendly baby squirrels too ...
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#3 of 58 Old 03-17-2010, 07:19 PM
 
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i would not let my kids touch them. leave out food and watch them and talk to them sure. but they are wild animals. and carry all the dangers of wild animals. would you let your kids play with a wild rat? same thing. and it is possible that even loving attatched rodent pets can bite. My kids have gotten bitten by their guinea pigs accidentally. At least I know where those little guys have been.

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#4 of 58 Old 03-17-2010, 07:20 PM
 
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A) Squirrels scratch too. Big time.

B) Get the nest out of your chimney. They can do damage to both the interior of your home and make a new nest in your home. A 4x4 hole was eaten in our eaves, and a 4x4 hole was eaten THROUGH our gutter and into the roof. We had to put up drip edge on all our gutters where the roof edge meets the gutter edge - not enjoyable.

C) I have two traps in my attic right now.

D) Do not be friendly to them. They are rodents and they are destructive. It isn't cheap to have the trapper come out to get them either. If they nest in your home, it has to be disinfected. Ew.

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#5 of 58 Old 03-17-2010, 07:49 PM
 
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No. For all of the aforementioned reasons.
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#6 of 58 Old 03-17-2010, 08:22 PM
 
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No way. In addition to what's been said, they also need to learn to fend for themselves, so I wouldn't even feed them.
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#7 of 58 Old 03-17-2010, 08:22 PM
 
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Squirrels = "Rats with good p.r."

At least, according to my dh.

Having said that - it would be incredibly difficult to resist adorable baby squirrels. I would try my best though. Aside from the destruction that they can do to a home, there has been a problem with distemper in wildlife in my area recently.
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#8 of 58 Old 03-17-2010, 08:23 PM
 
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feed them sure, but where I am from we had dry corn cobs type stuff on teh trees for squirrles anwyas. But as far as touching them not a chance. To many dangers to both the kids and the animals.
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#9 of 58 Old 03-17-2010, 08:34 PM
 
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Bad for the kids and bad for the squirrels leave them alone and let them do their wild squirrel thing.
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#10 of 58 Old 03-17-2010, 08:45 PM
 
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Nope. Not feed them, certainly not play with them or touch them.

Squirrels are not domesticated animals. They belong in the wild. They deserve to be wild (or as wild as you can get in suburbia). They do not mix well with humans. They can destroy your house (eating holes in it). They can carry parasites.

Putting food out for them simply teaches them that humans leave food and will make them pests for the rest of their lives.

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#11 of 58 Old 03-17-2010, 08:51 PM
 
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The baby squirrels sound adorable, but I would leave them alone. They have sharp claws ment to climb trees and that could end very badly for little legs, and they need to learn how to find their own food.
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#12 of 58 Old 03-17-2010, 08:55 PM
 
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I'd watch them from afar like other wild critters. I wouldn't even give them food because often the foods that humans like to give will create spoilage in the squirrels food cache (salted foods, cracker type foods, for example). It is hard when they are so cute, but it can become an issue in many ways as other posters have pointed out.

I like the "good PR" comment. I've heard of squirrels called "tree rats".
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#13 of 58 Old 03-17-2010, 08:56 PM
 
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I wouldn't touch a baby animal, period.

However, when I was a kid, we used to have tame squirrels (and deer too) because we lived in the wood and had lots of spare time. We had a group of about... oh 8-10 squirrels that we regularly played with and would eat out of our hands. They had great personalities and were very individualistic and it was great to learn so much about them. One day my mom got bit pretty hard though on her finger, no lasting damage but it freaked her out (she mistook one tame squirrel for a more nervous, wild one). She just got a scare and after that she wouldn't let us play with them.

I wouldn't be against it necessarily unless there's a rabies scare or they're acting funny. Everything has some risk involved, especially things connected with nature. But I would NOT touch a baby animal period. Mama instincts are NOTHING to mess with; even beloved pets can turn on you if something triggers the protection drive, never mind a first-generation wild animal.

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#14 of 58 Old 03-17-2010, 08:56 PM
 
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I wouldn't for all the above reasons but let me tell you, I know how hard it is to resist. When I was pregnant with ds, my cousin found an orphaned baby squirrel and it was all over! Oh man was that the sweetest thing! I fed it kitten formula and slept with her to keep her warm. I know (and knew) that she could have been carrying something but I guess my pregnant brain didn't register, and my hormones..well, did I mention I slept with her?

Anyway, all that was just until we could get her to the wildlife refuge for small animals. They reminded me how wonderful it was that I brought her in bc kitten formula wasn't going to cut it, obviously. That and I had no intention of attempting to make that wild animal a pet.

Did the babies have adult squirrels in the nest? I think you should consider looking into an organization that will help if not. Just a thought.

Kelly, wife to J and mama to our precious A, HE'S 5! and the parasite will emerge on or before Sept 24, 2010!
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#15 of 58 Old 03-17-2010, 08:58 PM
 
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Also, we used to have some cats that would bring in some chipmunks and mice and all them. Two chips we took in and nursed back to health because they were babies and the cats had injured them. They were pretty tame and would ride around my shoulder. They're kept as pets in some parts of the world, like Japan. Chips are a lot smaller than squirrels though.

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#16 of 58 Old 03-17-2010, 09:00 PM
 
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No. Wild animals are not toys for the amusement of my kids.
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#17 of 58 Old 03-17-2010, 09:04 PM
 
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sharp teeth, sharp claws, squirrely personality, equals a huge nope. I teach my kids to respect the wildlife. We watch from a distance, we might feed (unsalted nuts at the park-mind you they raid the bird feeders at home), but we don't touch.

I was at the zoo today and watched a bunch of kids chase a couple of geese. My 4yo said that they shouldn't do that, and he was validated in that belief when one of the geese bit one of the kids.

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#18 of 58 Old 03-17-2010, 09:09 PM
 
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My DH had neighbors growing up that ate them.

Me (36), my DH (37), our DD (12/07), and our new DS (7/7/10)
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#19 of 58 Old 03-17-2010, 09:15 PM
 
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I have actually raised 3 squirrels. The first I had was cut from a tree nest, literately, his tail was cut completely off, just a few weeks old, hand raised him and let him go when I was 9 mo preg with my first child.

Second was thrown from the nest by his mother and found by the house cat. We found out while feeding him why his mother rejected him. He had a cleft pallet and milk would poor from his nose as he fed. At this time I had just given birth to baby #2. Since I was breastfeeding at the time, I would express extra milk and feed the baby. He was a newborn, no hair and his eyes were closed for the first 3 weeks we had him. Few months later we eventually let him go also.

Third baby we found was ejected from his nest during a hurricane. I found him cold and stiff at the base of the tree he was in. Immediately I placed him in my bra for warm skin contact! He survived the trauma he endured and once again, months later I let him go.

They were friendly (well kinda, the first became VERY territorial over me, did not like any male who came near me and would get nasty, that is why I released him). I allowed my children to handle the second two we had. We had no issues at all.
I would not knowingly disturb a nest just to have a squirrel as a pet, but in the event that I ever found another abandoned baby, I would do the same as I have in the past w/o a second thought!

As for the comments about the parasites and diseases and such, well that goes for ANY living thing, even humans!
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#20 of 58 Old 03-17-2010, 09:15 PM
 
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A whole lotta no, for many good reasons already mentioned. I also wouldn't feed them on any kind of regular basis, unless you're planning to do it for the rest of their lives--wild animals that get used to receiving food from people can lose their edge (although not their ability) to forage for themseves. Big food source disappearing + hard winter = dead squirrels. Not so cute.
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#21 of 58 Old 03-17-2010, 09:27 PM
 
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i have raised 2 from babies. my dd was about 10 months old when i got the last one. i have pics of her playing with it. when he got big enough i let him go. if you dont let lots of people around them and keep it just close family they will not befriend every human. they can be part tame to a pesron they know. i would not say let them live with you. if they got out of the cage they will chew everything in site. they will bite if scared.
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#22 of 58 Old 03-17-2010, 09:28 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by choli View Post
No. Wild animals are not toys for the amusement of my kids.
Wow, see...I get what everyone is saying about the potential for safety issues because they are wild animals, those are my concerns too. BUT, we did not coax these squirrels into a cage and then play with them as we wish. Although, yes, we have been entertained by them, these squirreled came to us, chased after my kids in a playful manner, and franky, they just won't leave the kids alone! And it was my child's instinct to feed them. He wanted to care for the baby squirrel because there seems to be no mother around. Just 5 baby squirrels in our chimney. I just really resent the insinuation that we are using these animals as toys. My kids would never chase geese or squirrels just to scare them or for their own amusement. My DH and seemingly my kids really just have an inclination to care for the animals.

ANYWAY. I have convinced DH that it is not a good idea to try to keep the animals as pets in any form or fashion. The boys continued to play in the yard, as they usually do, and the squirrels played with them. Now that my kids have had dinner and gone to bed, I look out and I still see the same three squirrels playing around in the yard. I wonder if they'll be there in the morning. We've talked about the lesson the kids will learn; that yes, although it is fun to play with them and we would really like to keep them around, it really is not the best thing for the squirrels.

If they do not seem to have a mother, would it be better for us to get help for them or just let them be?

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#23 of 58 Old 03-17-2010, 09:34 PM
 
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I voted other, b/c my answer isn't about petting squirrels vs domestic animals.

I would not let DS pet any animal I didn't know. It isn't just about whether it's a "wild" animal with sharp teeth, or a "domestic" animal with flat teeth (though most of the domestic animals we keep as pets have sharp teeth.) I wouldn't let DS pet a feral cat though he pets grandpa's cat all the time.

This has nothing to do with whether the animal is a squirrel or a whatever. There are plenty of rats out there who are kept as pets that I would be fine with DS petting. I would happily let DS a squirrel someone was keeping as a pet.

The thing is those squirrels have never been to a vet. They have not gotten rabies shots. No one checks them for flees. Yada-yada. Though thy are acting like domestic animals they aren't cared for as domestic animals are.

When grandpa's cat bit DS b/c DS pulled his tail, I kissed it, settled DS down and explained that you don't pull cat's tails. I could take this relaxed attitude about it b/c I know GP's cat is basically healthy. If one of those squirrels bit one of you boys they would need rabies shots and a course of anti-biotics.

Even just petting the squirrels risks getting ringworm, and if they do carry rabies just coming in contact with their saliva is a slight risk (if one happened to have an open wound such as a paper cut and the saliva got in.)

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#24 of 58 Old 03-17-2010, 09:44 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Grace and Granola View Post
If they do not seem to have a mother, would it be better for us to get help for them or just let them be?
Squirrel mommies don't spend nearly as much time with their babies as human mommies do. They also may be old enough at this point that she feels they are ready to fend for themselves since they are out of the nest.

BTW, I forgot to mention in my first post. You need to get you chimney swept and you should get it capped. The nest can cause a blockage that would let carbon monoxide build up. The chimney isn't just for when you have a fire in the fire place, your furnace and water heater probably vent from it.

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#25 of 58 Old 03-17-2010, 09:52 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Squirrel mommies don't spend nearly as much time with their babies as human mommies do. They also may be old enough at this point that she feels they are ready to fend for themselves since they are out of the nest.

BTW, I forgot to mention in my first post. You need to get you chimney swept and you should get it capped. The nest can cause a blockage that would let carbon monoxide build up. The chimney isn't just for when you have a fire in the fire place, your furnace and water heater probably vent from it.
They do seem to be big baby squirrels. They are full of fur and seem very healthy, as if they've been properly nourished. I guess I won't worry about them.

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#26 of 58 Old 03-17-2010, 11:54 PM
 
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Each of my grandmothers had a squirrel story. My dad's mom found a baby squirrel when dad and aunt were young, and she took it in and raised it. (If you knew this woman you'd know how insanely out of character that was for her!) It grew up in their house and had the run of the house, living there for at least a year or more. One day the squirrel ate my grandfathers nice straw hat and grandfather no longer had patience for a squirrel for a pet! So they let it go. It would come back often and visit for many years and did fine in the wild.

My other grandmother told of when my uncle found one. They lived on some acreage, and he was about 7. He was outside and saw a squirrel sitting there. Eventually the squirrel was friendly towards him and let him pet it. Then it bit him. The doctors wanted my uncle to go through the series of rabies shots in the stomach and the whole bit. Thankfully grandma knew there were no rabies outbreaks in the area so she declined, but that was still a risky thing to do.
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#27 of 58 Old 03-18-2010, 12:22 AM
 
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no way! cute as they are, and sweet as they may be at the moment, they are wild animals who carry lots of wild animal cooties. they are very prone to bite, also. i would let them be.

Erin, 33, salty southern mama, sitting by the sea with my DH35, DD10, DS4, &DD2!
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#28 of 58 Old 03-18-2010, 12:28 AM
 
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The squirrels out west here carry bubonic plague; squirrels can be sort of cute looking, but are real destructive, & not encouraged at all. I wouldn't let my kids touch one, alive or dead.

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#29 of 58 Old 03-18-2010, 09:17 AM
 
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Originally Posted by Tummy View Post

As for the comments about the parasites and diseases and such, well that goes for ANY living thing, even humans!
Well, true. But when humans have something like an H1N1 outbreak, I'm more careful. I avoid unnecessary hand contact, I take extra care with hand washing, I try to avoid people who are obviously coughing and sneezing.

Similarly, if the public health unit has gone to the trouble of issuing a warning about a distemper outbreak in local wildlife, I'm not going to start playing with said wildlife. Especially since most humans aren't likely to bite me, but most wildlife will.
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#30 of 58 Old 03-18-2010, 09:23 AM
 
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No, because they carry rabies and who knows what else, and also because they are wild animals and it isn't fair to them. They should be living in the wild.
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