Weather News

Orphan squirrels? After Dorian, NC rescuers save hundreds left injured and alone

Hurricane Dorian left more than flooding and damaged buildings when it swept through the Carolinas last week — with wildlife also in peril, according to rescue groups.

In addition to birds trapped in the eye of the storm that were severely injured or near death when they finally broke free, rescuers said they have taken in hundreds of infant squirrels.

“This is what chaos looks like,” Carolina Waterfowl Rescue said in a Facebook post Sunday. “We helped rescue over 100 squirrels from the coast that were left injured and orphaned after the strong winds from #HurricanDorian destroyed their nests and trees that they once lived in.”

In a video accompanying the post, the rescue group showed gaggles of baby Eastern Gray Squirrels squirming in boxes with blankets at its Indian Trail facility just south of Charlotte.

Carolina Waterfowl warned residents as Dorian transitioned from South to North Carolina on Thursday about “dreys,” or clumps of leaves and sticks that squirrels use as a nest.

“There are many downed dreys in the hurricane zones currently,” the rescue group said. “If you see one, please check it for infant squirrels. If you are able to find any, they will typically be at the bases of large hardwood trees.”

Rescuers cautioned not to feed them anything but to try and keep the baby squirrels warm as they are incapable of regulating their body temperature in infancy.

Carolina Waterfowl had a team along the coast waiting for Dorian to hit, Executive Director Jennifer Gordon told McClatchy news group Monday.

Partnering with local rescues, veterinarians and wildlife rehabilitators, Gordon said Carolina Waterfowl saved 109 squirrels — but that doesn’t include those who died or were euthanized because of injuries.

“Which was a lot,” she said.

The ones that survived were triaged and moved to local rehabilitation centers to make room for squirrels still arriving from the coast, Gordon said.

Birds also in hurricane

Rescuers have also saved hordes of bird species like songbirds and pelicans, she said, many of which were forced to follow the hurricane’s path.

Hundreds of thousands of birds were picked up in the eye of the storm using Doppler radar, according to the rescue group.

Carolina Waterfowl is asking for donations and volunteers to help with the intake of injured animals.

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Hayley is a Real Time reporter at The Charlotte Observer covering breaking news and trending stories in the Carolinas. She also created the Observer’s unofficial bird beat (est. 2015) with a summer full of ornithological-related content, including a story about Barred Owls in love.