There are so many delightful corners of TikTok — and one of the most wholesome is animal rescue TikTok, where wildlife rehabilitators post their experiences caring for injured or sick wildlife. One account showcasing some seriously incredible work is Squirrel School, which has more than 82,000 followers.
To learn more about Squirrel School, Green Matters recently caught up with the woman behind the magic, wildlife rehabilitator Beckie Lombardi, who cares for squirrels as part of her volunteer work with Boise, Idaho’s Animals in Distress Association.
Squirrel School on TikTok shows how incredible wildlife rehabilitation is.
On her TikTok account Squirrel School, Beckie Lombardi, 45, shares videos of the wild animals she rehabilitates, who are mostly squirrels, with some chipmunks, snakes, mice, badgers, and ferrets in the mix. Squirrel School’s videos showcase the adorable critters feeding, being groomed, and playing in and around Lombardi’s home.
“These tiny balls of snuggly fur are so much fun. I love watching them play and explore and bounce around as they grow from squirmy babies into little toddlers,” Lombardi tells Green Matters via email. “The best part is after a long session of playing when they come over and curl up on you for a nap. Squirrel fur is so soft and their tiny little snores are just heartbreakingly sweet. A lap full of snoozing squirrels is the best feeling ever.”
A recent video tells the story of a mama squirrel named Pepper, who was unable to walk and therefore in Lombardi’s care. Lombardi was able to tell that Pepper had recently been nursing, so she introduced her to a newborn squirrel named Baby Bean, who was in need of a mother’s milk — and the two took a liking to one another immediately. The video (below) shows Pepper nursing Baby Bean, and it’s the most wholesome thing you’ll see today.
Squirrel School even has a few videos featuring hidden camera footage, presumably from security cameras around Lombardi’s home, where you see squirrels climbing all over Lombardi as she tries to work, sneaking food from the kitchen, and zooming all around the living room. Things can get hectic — at one point last year, Lombardi’s condo was home to 28 squirrels at once — but she loves it.
And not only are the videos adorable, entertaining, and funny, but they are also heartwarming and inspiring, as they are all the product of someone volunteering so much of her time and her home to help wildlife in need.
Once squirrels are healed, Lombardi “soft releases” them back into the wild.
As Lombardi tells us, baby squirrels in her care typically need about three to four months of formula feeding, during which time she enjoys “cuddling them and loving on them and raising them from tiny pink erasers into fuzzy mini-squirrels.” Eventually, they transition to solid food, and get ready to return to the wild.
“After they transition off formula, you have to prepare them for life outside in the wild. We do this through a process called soft releasing,” Lombardi explains. “The now teenage squirrels are put into a large outdoor enclosure where they are allowed to explore the area around them safely. Human interaction is dropped to almost zero so they can get used to being around other squirrels instead. After about a month we open the door and allow them to come and go from the enclosure to the wild world as they want. Eventually they leave one day and that’s that! They’re off on their own.”
She adds, “Luckily, squirrels tend to ‘wild up’ very easily so there are no worries that the spoiling I do when they are little will ruin them when they get older.’
Lombardi has been caring for wild animals her whole life.
Growing up in a rural area of Boise, Lombardi was always an animal lover. Her family always had animals in the house, and she even helped care for wild baby birds in her neighborhood as a child. After leaving town for college and a stint in the Navy, Lombardi settled down in Los Angeles, where she worked as an assistant director, costume designer, prop fabricator, and screenwriter for years — all the while, continuing to volunteer with animal organizations, as she had been doing for years.
Lombardi booked a gig with the Syfy show Z Nation, which found her living in Spokane, Wash. for two years. The city reminded her of Boise, so when the show wrapped, she went back to her hometown. Shortly after arriving, she found a baby mouse in need of care, so she contacted Animals in Distress Association (AIDA). The organization’s leaders took Lombardi under their wings, and she quickly became known as a local mouse rescuer.
After a few months, she decided to permanently stay in Boise, where she now works full time doing marketing and content creation for a startup. At that point, AIDA’s founder Toni Hicks (who passed away from cancer recently) started assigning squirrels to Lombardi.
In October of 2020, Lombardi started sharing videos of her rescue squirrels on TikTok, and was shocked to see her account quickly hit 1 million views, and continue to grow over the past year.
“Who knew squirrels were so popular on social media?!” Lombardi says. “Regardless, if it allows me to share with the world about how great squirrels are and how they are much more complex little animals than most people realize, I am happy for it!”
How to help local squirrels and other wild animals in distress:
If you see a squirrel or other wild animal in need of help, always check to see if there is a local wildlife rescue that can help (The Humane Society of the United States has a guide to finding a wildlife rehabilitator). Lombardi encourages doing that before calling an exterminator or animal control department, which “often doesn’t end well for the animals they are dealing with,” she says.
Lombardi also recommends online resources like The Squirrel Board, Henry’s Pets, and finding a squirrel rehab Facebook group, where she has been able to connect her with experts who answer her questions about the animals she is caring for. And if you want to support Lombardi’s rescue work, you can make a donation to @squirrel_school on Venmo, or donate on AIDA’s website.