I found a baby “_____”, now what?
Spring has sprung, and with it comes the newest generation of wildlife. Tiny, fuzzy, and cute; we tend to come across one (or more) of these new babies in our daily travels and wonder if they need our help. Many babies are brought to wildlife rehabilitation centres with the genuine thought that they are orphaned – but are they really? It is important to be educated and be aware of the signs of an orphaned or injured baby and whether they need our intervention. If they are not truly orphaned or injured, there is no better caretaker than their mothers and they should be left alone.
So, you’ve found a baby animal, before you touch it, asses it from a safe distance – is it injured? Can you see blood? Is it dragging a limb or wing? Are there flies swarming around it possibly indicating a wound? If yes, contact your nearest wildlife rehabilitation centre to see if they can accommodate the animal. If no, what makes you concerned about the sighting of the baby? Is it a bird out of a nest? Is it in a peculiar area? Is it alone? Keep in mind; some babies are left alone for long periods of time to keep predators away from the area. The following are some common wildlife babies that may be misinterpreted as orphans:
Rabbits (cottontails and hares) – rabbits are often seen alone during the day and are commonly misinterpreted as orphans. However, mom usually only frequents the nest twice a day (dusk and dawn) to feed them. Some breeds of rabbits begin to leave the nest for short periods of time as early as 3 weeks of age. If there is concern that a rabbit or nest of rabbits is orphaned, it is important to observe from a safe distance for approximately 24hours. If the mother has not returned to the nest, then calling a wildlife rehabilitation centre would be your next step. Unnecessary handling of the rabbit should be avoided as they are high stress animals and stressful events can be fatal.
Fawns – baby fawns are born with no scent; therefore mom usually leaves them for long periods of time and comes back only to feed them. Mom can leave the fawn for 6-12 hours between feedings and sometimes longer. Usually when they are found they are curled up and partially camouflaged. Deer are also a high stress species, so avoid unnecessary handling.
Birds – baby birds are commonly found and brought to wildlife rehabilitation centres. If you find a baby bird on the ground, and you know the nest is nearby; if possible, safely return the bird to the nest.
If you have determined that the baby is orphaned or injured and you can safely capture it, it should be kept in a warm, quiet box where it will not be disturbed until it can be transported to a wildlife rehabilitation centre.
It is important that you never try to hydrate or feed the wildlife as this can be fatal. Get the animal to a wildlife rehabilitation centre as soon as possible, so they can asses and begin treating the animal.
These are just some of the common wildlife babies that rehabilitation centres see, if you are ever unsure about wildlife of any species or life stage it is always important to contact a wildlife rehabilitator for more information.
Unsure of wildlife rehabilitators near you? Check out https://www.ontario.ca/page/find-wildlife-rehabilitator for a list of licensed rehabilitators and species that they accept.
Wildlife rehabilitation centres are always looking for volunteers. Without volunteers their facilities cannot run, and they cannot look after the animals that come to them. Facilities need volunteers for animal care, fundraising, and infrastructure repair, and upkeep. If you can’t donate time, what about donating supplies? They are always in need of items such as food, housing, enrichment supplies, and medical supplies. We can all be a helping hand in one way or another.