SAN RAFAEL (CBS SF) — Staff at a North Bay wild animal hospital this week celebrated the continuing recovery of a young squirrel that had broken his leg in a bad fall.
The baby Western Gray Squirrel was brought to WildCare, the urban wildlife hospital in downtown San Rafael, on May 6 after falling from his nest in a tall tree and being grabbed by a dog in Novato.
The baby squirrel arrived at WildCare with head trauma and a severely broken leg the result of his ordeal.
A second squirrel of approximately the same age was also brought to WildCare from a different location in Novato on May 13, also suffering from head trauma, disorientation and dehydration.
According to WildCare’s Allison Hermance, baby squirrels frequently fall out of their nests due to being top heavy from the relatively large size of their heads.
An x-ray of the young squirrel’s leg showed the fractures to both the tibia and the fibula.
While WildCare veterinarians are often able to surgically repair broken bones on patients — even tiny bones like the ones broken in the baby squirrel’s leg — the location of the break presented a problem.
If veterinarians pinned the bone as the location of the break might have required, it would have inhibited the growth plates in the squirrel’s knee. Instead, the break had to be splinted to allow continued growth.
It took time for the WildCare medical staff to try several different splints to keep the squirrel’s leg stable, a challenge that was compounded by the baby squirrel’s active and rambunctious nature when changing bandages.
They eventually figured out that feeding him squirrel formula during the almost daily splint changes using the same kind of splint designed for pigeons helped keep the animal still and quiet for the procedure.
Not only was the squirrel getting the bandage dirty while tearing around his enclosure (despite his movement being somewhat limited by the broken leg), he also busied himself chewing and shredding the splint.
After several weeks of recovery, x-rays confirmed that the bones in the squirrel’s leg had healed, Staff removed the splint, but the squirrel was kept at the hospital so he could continue his recovery and build up his leg muscles that atrophied while in the splint.
Staff at WildCare was concerned the squirrel might not be able to climb properly if the leg’s use was restricted.
However, the squirrel has remained active and is gradually regaining strength in the leg as it continues to grow in a larger habitat with his fellow rescued squirrel.
According to Hermance, who is currently taking care of the two squirrels, the animals will soon be released back into the wild in Novato after their recovery is complete.
To learn more about WildCare and the work the urban hospital does with rescued North Bay wildlife, visit the hospital’s website.