It’s baby animal season!
This is the time of year when wildlife rehabilitation facilities get filled up with “orphaned” babies brought in by well-meaning citizens. While plenty of these babies truly are orphans and need the care of a licensed rehabber to survive, there are also unfortunately plenty of babies brought in that were mistakenly thought to be abandoned. So, what do you do if you see a baby animal by itself? Information provided based on recommendations of the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Minnesota:
–Squirrels: Female squirrels move babies between nest sites, and during this process babies may be visible outside their nest or even at the base of a tree. If you see baby squirrels outside of a nest, leave them undisturbed and keep your pets contained. Keep an eye on them for a few hours–it may take her a while! If she doesn’t return for them by the next day, then it’s time to call your local rehabber. If you disturb a nest, as is common when trimming branches this time of year, leave them be as long as they are not injured. Again, if they are still alone the next day, take them in.
–Bunnies: If you find a nest, try and keep your pet contained and the area undisturbed for a few weeks while the bunnies grow. You likely will not see mom! You can monitor the nest if you’re concerned, you will quickly see a decline in the health of the babies if mom is not returning to nurse them. If your pet disturbs a nest, bring any injured babies to your local rehab center but leave the uninjured animals alone.
–Ducklings/goslings: Mom should lead the babies to the nearest body of water within a day or two of hatching. Do not try and move mom and all her babies as you will likely just end up stressing and potentially scattering them. If a baby is left behind, you can gently capture them and keep them in a warm, quiet place until you can take them to a rehabber. Be very gentle with ducklings and goslings, and do not handle them more than necessary! These babies are very easily stressed. Unhatched eggs should be left undisturbed–they are federally protected.
–Birds: It is a myth that handling a baby bird will prevent the parents from taking care of it. If you find a featherless bird or a bird with fluffy down feathers, you can gently put it back in the nest. If the same bird keeps getting pushed out of the nest, you should bring it to a rehabber as they may be something wrong with it. If the entire nest has fallen, try and put it back in the same place you found it. If you can’t put it right back where it was, keep it within 5 feet of the original location to ensure the parents continue to care for them. Fledgling birds will spend a significant amount of time on the ground as their immature wings develop. They flutter around, but they can’t really fly yet. Parents will still feed fledglings, so you can keep an eye on a grounded bird to see if adult birds are still in the area caring for them.
–In general: If you find a baby animal alone, leave it be and monitor it to see if mom comes back. Keep your pets away from the area, and don’t try to handle the baby unless absolutely necessary as this can result in you stressing out or hurting the animal. If mom doesn’t come back after several hours, you can take them in to a LICENSED REHABBER. Many rehabilitation facilities want you to call before bringing in an orphaned animal to ensure that they are truly orphaned. Do NOT bring the animal into your house to raise! Most people do not have the time or knowledge to raise orphaned wildlife, and by hand raising them, you habituate them to humans and prevent them from having a chance to be released. Also, it’s illegal. If the animal is injured, it is ok to take them to your local rehabber right away! When in doubt, call your local wildlife rehabilitation facility. They can give you more information about specific species and situations. If you really can’t find a wildlife rehabilitator or the animal is in need of immediate medical attention, you can take it to a vet clinic. Veterinarians can provide lifesaving care or humane euthanasia for an injured animal, before getting them to a rehabber.