RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — You’ll be more likely to come across baby squirrels this fall, according to the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission.

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Gray squirrels — North Carolina’s state mammal — are raising their second brood of the year.

As the babies hunker down in their nest for about 12 weeks after birth, the Wildlife Commission says severe weather from hurricane season could cut that time short.

Storms with high winds and heavy rain like Hurricane Ian, and tree-cutting and trimming activity in the storm’s aftermath, can lead to young squirrels and their nests falling out of high perches, according to a release.

What should I do — and not do — if I find one?

If you find a baby squirrel, the Wildlife Commission says attempting to take care of them could do more harm than good.

“A good practice is not to assume immediate intervention is the best way to help,” explains Falyn Owens, extension biologist for the Wildlife Commission. “Pausing long enough to consult a wildlife professional before moving or caring for the animal can greatly increase its chance of survival.”

Officials suggest reaching out to a licensed rehabilitator who specialized in caring for injured or orphaned wildlife.

They will tell you what to do, and not do, when in a wildlife encounter.

You can find a directory of licensed rehabilitators here.

When it comes to a young squirrel that has fallen out of its nest, experts say they’ll usually recommend allowing some time for the mother to retrieve it.

“Humans simply are not as good at taking care of young wildlife as their mothers and not all young animals found by themselves have been abandoned,” stated Owens.

When a squirrel’s nest is disturbed and babies fall out, she says the mother works as fast as she can to find her young and carry them back to the nest.

If that nest is destroyed, she’ll build a new nest first, then bring them to the new nest.

Owens warns that if a young squirrel is removed from the area before the mother retrieves it, it has a smaller chance of survival.

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She also warns you could get in legal trouble for taking one home.

“The possession of live, native wildlife is illegal in North Carolina, except particular circumstances that usually require a license or permit,” Owens said. “Despite a person’s best intentions, a wild animal is best left where it was found, or in the hands of a licensed wildlife rehabilitator.”

If you reach out to a wildlife rehabilitator and they don’t answer the phone, Owens recommends leaving them a message instead of calling again.

This is because they’re probably feeding or checking on wildlife already in their care and need a few minutes to get to the phone.

If you don’t hear back and need advice right away, Owens suggests reaching out to a rehabilitator in another county.

You can also contact the N.C. Wildlife Helpline at 866-318-2401 or email hwi@ncwildlife.org for advice on how to help injured or orphaned wildlife.

The Wildlife Commission’s helpline hours are Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Click here to visit their website and learn more.