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San Diego Humane Society

Squirrels: Coexisting with Wildlife

About San Diego's Squirrel Population

  • There are three types of squirrels in San Diego: the California ground squirrel, the Western gray squirrel and the Easter fox squirrel.
  • The Eastern fox squirrel is an introduced species, meaning they are non-native but arrived in our region due to human activity.
  • Project Wildlife cares for approximately 200 squirrels each year. Of those, 99% are California ground squirrels.
  • The ground squirrel is common in San Diego County and, like all wildlife, plays an important role in our ecosystem. However, some consider squirrels to be a nuisance and, as a result, they are at risk of being exterminated by inhumane methods. Squirrels are mainly herbivores who eat seeds, nuts and plants but sometimes will eat insects, eggs and small mammals.
  • Their main predators include hawks, coyotes, bobcats, foxes, weasels and mountain lions.
  • Some of the most frequent calls received by our Project Wildlife team are about orphaned baby ground squirrels in the spring, or sick or injured adult ground squirrels year-round.
  • Many calls come in about squirrel burrows in backyards  and squirrels in attics or chimneys.

When does a squirrel need to come to the Project Wildlife Care Center?

  1. If the baby squirrel is orphaned. If you are sure there is no mother nearby, bring the baby squirrel to us for care. Keep the baby squirrel warm, dark and quiet and do not feed themMore tips.
  2. If an adult squirrel is sick, bleeding or has been attacked by a dog or cat. If the squirrel is alert, never try to handle them with bare hands. Instead, carefully put a cardboard box over the animal. Seal the box with rocks to weigh it down, then call San Diego Humane Society’s dispatch for help (619-299-7012, press 1) If the squirrel is not alert, you may try to nudge them into a cardboard box and bring them to Project Wildlife yourself. More tips.

How you can help:

Abandoned Baby and Juvenile Squirrels:

Please make sure there is not a mother nearby. In not, use the tips below to safely bring the orphaned baby squirrel to a qualified wildlife rehabilitator as soon as possible.   

  • Pick up the squirrel with a soft cloth.
  • Put the squirrel in a closed, escape-proof container such as a pet kennel or aquarium with a soft ravel-free cloth (no strings), and cover the container loosely with a towel.
  • Put a heating pad set on low beneath half of the container.
  • Monitor the container so the animal is warm , but not hot.
  • Keep the container in a quiet area, away from children and pets.
  • Do not attempt to feed the squirrel any type of formula or solid foods. Baby squirrels aspirate very easily, and it’s best to leave feeding to a qualified caretaker. Please bring them to Project Wildlife as soon as possible.

Adult squirrels:

  • If the squirrel is alert, do not attempt to handle them.
  • Cover the squirrel with a cardboard box with air holes. Weigh the box down with a rock or something heavy. Call San Diego Humane Society’s dispatch (619-299-7012, press 1) for help..
  • If the squirrel is not very alert or cannot move, you may attempt to nudge them into a box, bucket or carrier with the end of a broom, piece of cardboard or other similar object. Do not handle the squirrel with your bare hands! Cover the container snugly (make sure there are air holes) and bring it to Project Wildlife.
  • Do not attempt to rehabilitate an adult squirrel for any reason. If it will be a few hours or overnight until you can get the squirrel to a rehabilitator, set a heating pad set to low beneath half the container, and place it in a quiet area away from children and pets.
  • Do not put food or water into the container. If the squirrel is in shock or has other medical issues, the food and water could cause more harm than good.

Coexisting with squirrels:

  • Squirrels will readily take up residence in a building if access is available. It is important to block all holes with wood or wire mesh to prevent entry.
  • Install only free-standing bird feeders in sites where squirrels cannot get access. Keep them away from shrubs and overhanging tree limbs. Put the feeder on a metal pole at least 6 feet high.
  • Prune overhanging tree limbs, shrubs and vines that may provide access to attics and other areas. Also cover telephone and electric wires near the house with long plastic tubing.
  • Squirrels are excitable and can cause severe damage if trapped inside a home. Quickly and quietly open a door or window to the outside and leave the room.


A squirrel may fall in a chimney while climbing on the roof. Secure a heavy rope from the top of the chimney and drop it down to the fireplace. After the squirrel has exited, remove the rope and properly cap the chimney.  



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