The wild is full of newborns and baby animals who are now big enough to wander around. Finding a baby alone can bring out every protective instinct an animal lover has, but please don’t rush to the rescue. The vast majority haven’t been abandoned and you don’t want to come between a Mama and her baby. Worse still is coming between a vicious predator and his prey. The baby himself can also inflict injury.
The most important thing to do is to make sure the baby is really abandoned. Wildlife babies are often left to rest alone while the parent hunts. Some animals, like rabbits and deer, instinctively watch from afar so as not to give away the location of their offspring to predators. When in doubt, watch from a safe distance for 24 hours.
Young birds may be seen wandering around on the ground before their feathers are fully developed. This is a natural stage so unless the bird is in immediate danger, leave him alone. If a cat or other danger is lurking, you can stay in the area if the predator isn’t a threat to you, but don’t stay so long that you keep watchful parents away. Birds caught by cats should receive medication so a call to your local wildlife facility may be in order.
If you’ve found a wild baby that is injured or you’re sure he has been orphaned:
- Contact a licensed wildlife facility
- Provide water only and refrain from feeding
- Provide shelter, warmth and quiet
- Avoid handling, patting or talking to the animal. This doesn’t comfort them like it does with domesticated animals, it stresses them even more.
- Keep pets away to avoid stress and disease transmission
In this age of cellphones, the best thing you can do if you’ve found a wild animal is retreat to a safe distance and contact a wildlife center from the area. Animal shelters for domesticated animals usually have contact information for local wildlife rescues. You can also contact government departments in charge of wildlife for advice and information. Put the number in your cellphone directory right now, while you’re thinking of it.
If you think you’ve made a mistake by ‘rescuing’ a baby, it’s OK to put them back after a short time if you can safely do so. Mom will not reject them if they smell like humans.
Remember that it’s against the law to keep wild animals as pets and they don’t make good pets, especially once they grow into adults. They can be unpredictably aggressive, destructive, and demanding. A wild animal is captive, not domesticated – there’s a big difference. When it becomes too much to handle later, it isn’t possible to simply return an animal to the wild after it has been in captivity as a baby.
If you’d like to help wildlife babies that truly need assistance, find a wildlife center to volunteer in! They can usually use some extra hands this time of year. They can also use extra donations.
Have you ever rescued wildlife offspring? Do you have any advice? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.
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