Seven months ago a Wellington, Fla. family got a mysterious box placed on their door step. The box had two baby squirrels in it. They had fallen from a tree that their landscaping neighbor cut down hours prior and were in desperate need of help. Marlene Stebbins and her family decided to become fosters.
"Once they fell, if the mother did find them after some time, she wouldn't feed them anymore. Once the babies become cold the mother thinks they are dead." Marlene explained. She thinks the babies would have died from dehydration within 24 hours.
I opened the box and got so scared because they were so tiny, they barely had hair, their eyes were closed. But we went ahead and took them.
The Stebbins family did a lot of online research in order to take care of the little squirrels. They had to bottle feed them every four hours which resulted in a lot of sleep deprived nights. Marlene said it was tough to say the least. Almost as hard as having a human baby.
The whole family took turns taking care of them.
When they were babies it was hard to take care of them. We had to do a lot of stuff as if it was a human baby.
Along with bottle feeding, they had to rub a wet cotton ball on the squirrels' bellies to entice them to urinate and defecate, actions that are stimulated in the wild when a mother squirrel licks their young's stomachs . Without that treatment, the family says that the squirrels could have died.
Marlene has always warned others about the time and effort involved in fostering. "One thing I always say is that if you are going to take care of squirrels, you have to make sure you have time enough to do this. Especially when they are little and they need so much care."
Although it was hard, they were patient and now feel a big connection to Gorda and Flaca. Seems like the feelings of admiration are mutual. "I think we did a pretty good job. They survived and they became part of the family."
12 year-old Robert and 11-year-old Juliana took an active role in taking care of the tiny fur balls. They originally named the squirrels Max and Carter but renamed them Gorda and Flaca after they found out that they were female.
Gorda and Flaca are now seven months old. They sleep inside and chill outside all day.
They are such smart animals. It's incredibly how much love we have for them and how much love they give back to us.
They even know their foster family's schedule. Gorda and Flaca always greet the Stebbins' when they pull up in the driveway and are ready to come inside every night for bed. The routine brings the family joy.
Squirrels can live up to twenty years indoors but most wild squirrels don't due to predators, starvation and getting hit by cars. According to Marlene the life expectancy of a wild squirrel is only a few years.
Wild neighborhood squirrels also come to visit the Stebbins family.
It's pretty safe to say that Gorda and Flaca are now living the good life!
A squirrel lover fun fact - January 21st is Squirrel Appreciation Day.