Squirrels at the ARL Wildlife Center (photo from Jill Argall)
Ever thought about mentoring a wild squirrel?

If you enjoy these bushy-tailed creatures, have good forest habitat at your home and like to feed squirrels you’re a candidate for the “soft release” squirrel program.

The ARL Wildlife Center in Verona, PA has more than 50 orphaned squirrel pups who were rescued in September and October, very late in the breeding season.  At the time, they weren’t even weaned yet and are so young they won’t be ready for release into the wild until December.  By then their food supply will be buried under snow and ice.  How will they survive?  They need an “angel.” 

Here’s how it works.  As the squirrel pups grow up, they progress from bottle-fed babyhood to bouncing adolescence.  When they’re ready to become acclimated to the weather they’re placed in the outdoor pre-release enclosure with a specially designed wooden box that will be their permanent home.  When they’re full grown it’s time to release them, so the Wildlife Center closes the box with the squirrels inside, the box is transported to their patron’s home and mounted on a tree.  Open the door and voilà!   The squirrels have a new home with a safe, familiar nest.  And you help them survive by putting out food for them until they no longer need it.  They might leave the area but some squirrels have been known to stay and raise families in their favorite box for years to come.

The Wildlife Center is collecting a list of people who want to participate in this program.  If you’re interested in being an “angel” to a couple of squirrels, call the Wildlife Center at 412-793-6900. 

To learn more about the ARL Wildlife Center, visit their website.

(photo by Maria Pyrdek at ARL Wildlife Center)

11 thoughts on “Adopt-a-Squirrel

  1. Dear Kate–I thought long and hard about this, since our deep backyard, with scrub trees and overgrowth, sounded ideal. However, there is also a colony of feral cats who traverse the area. Squirrel cubs sound like dinner?


  2. Possible, but doubtful as regards the cats. The squirrels will be full-grown by the time they leave the Wildlife Center. Their real challenge will be hawks & owls!

  3. Kate, I brought my first squirrel box home yesterday. After putting it up, and assuming there was just one male grey squirrel in there, I was quite surprised to see 3 little ones pop out. Two have remained very close to the box, while the third has ventured off. My only regret is that there is no way to tell them apart from my regular squirrel population. It would be interesting to see just how many of them stay in my area. Nonetheless, thank you for the information regarding the program.

  4. I would be interested in helping. We have a good population of squirrels in our backyard,we have a tree.that they love & gather nuts from. We also put food & nuts out for them as well. Please contact me if your in need of help in the western Pennsylvania area.

    1. Tracy, if you live in the Pittsburgh area, call the ARL Wildlife Center at 412-793-6900 to make arrangements. If you don’t live in southwestern Pennsylvania you’ll be too far away to participate.

  5. I recently lost my sweet baby Milo to old age, he was a grey squirrel. I am desperate to adopt or find another one, My heart is hurting. I live in Mobile, Alabama. Do you know any contacts in my area who would have any or anyone in need of a re-home?? Any advice is greay appreciated. Thanks!!

  6. I live in Texas and would love something like this. Any info on something like this near Fort Worth? Thank you!

  7. I would love to do this. This is perfect for me (I think). There are about 7 squirrels that play around my property. We visit each other daily, and I love them. Please let me know if it sounds like I could help. Thanks!

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