The people's voice of reason

What to do if injured or baby wildlife is found

Many wild animals are cute, especially babies, and it might be tempting to try and care for one on your own. This is not a good idea! Wild animals can be aggressive and can carry parasites and diseases that may be transmissible to you or your companion animals. Wildlife rehabilitators have the facilities and knowledge to address the very specific needs of various wildlife species.

These tips can help you decide whether to take action:

1. Signs that a wild animal needs your help. 2. Presented by a cat or dog. 3. Evidence of bleeding. 4. An apparent or obvious broken limb. 5. Featherless or nearly featherless and on the ground. 6. Shivering. 7. A dead parent nearby. 8. Crying and wandering all day long.

If you see any of these signs, find help for the animal. If necessary, safely capture and transport her to the appropriate place for treatment. Determining whether an animal is orphaned and needs your help depends on age, species and behavior. Babies of some species are left alone all day and rely on camouflage for protection, while others are tightly supervised by their parent(s). Read on for descriptions of what's normal for each species. A squirrel who is nearly full-sized, has a full and fluffy tail and can run, jump and climb is independent. However, if a juvenile squirrel continuously approaches and follows people, her mom is probably gone. In this case, you should contact a rehabilitator because the baby is very hungry and needs care. There are a few cases where you might need to intervene:

1. A baby squirrel falls from a nest. 2. A nest falls from a tree. 3. A felled tree contains an intact nest.

If the baby and/or his nest fell from the tree today, give the mother squirrel a chance to reclaim her young and relocate him to a new nest. If the baby is uninjured, leave him where he is, leave the area, keep people and pets away and monitor him from a safe distance. If it's chilly outside or the baby isn't fully furred, place him in a shoebox with something warm underneath (like a heating pad on a low setting or a hot water bottle). Be sure to put a flannel shirt between the baby and the heating device, or he could overheat. Do not cover him with anything or the mother might not be able to find him. If the babies are not retrieved by dusk, take these steps: Wearing thick gloves gather the squirrels and place them inside a thick, soft cloth, such as a cloth diaper or fleece scarf or hat. Place one of the following items beneath the cloth: a chemical hand warmer inside a sock, a hot water bottle (replace the hot water every 30 minutes) or a heating pad set on the lowest setting. (If the heating pad has no cover, put it inside two pillow cases so the babies don't overheat. Place the baby squirrels, cloth and warmer inside a small cardboard box or carrier. Call a wildlife rehabilitator. People often mistakenly assume that a fawn (baby deer) found alone is orphaned. If the fawn is lying down calmly and quietly, his mother is nearby and he is OK.

A doe only visits and nurses her fawn a few times a day to avoid attracting predators. Unless you know that the mother is dead, leave the fawn alone. Although mother deer are wary of human smells, they still want their babies back. If you already handled the fawn, quickly return the fawn to the exact spot where you found him and leave the area; the mother deer will not show herself until you are gone. If the fawn is lying on his side or wandering and crying incessantly all day, he probably needs help. If this is the case, contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator.

Fox kits will often appear unsupervised for long periods while their parents are out hunting for food. They will play like puppies around the den site until the parents decide they're old enough to go on hunting trips. Then they will suddenly disappear. Observe the kits from a distance; if they seem energetic and healthy, leave them alone. If they appear sickly or weak, or if you have reason to believe both parents are dead, contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. Baby opossums are born as embryos, barely larger than a bee, and spend about two months nursing in their mother's pouch. When they get to be about 3-4 inches long and start riding around on her back, they may fall off without her noticing. As a general rule, if an opossum is over 7 inches long (not including the tail), he's old enough to be on his own; if he's less than 7 inches long (not including the tail), he is an orphan, and you should contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator.

If a baby raccoon has been seen alone for more than a few hours, he is probably an orphan. Mother raccoons don't let their young out of their sight for long. Put an inverted laundry basket over the baby (with a light weight on top so he cannot push his way out) and monitor him until well into the nighttime hours (raccoons are nocturnal, so mom should come out at night to reclaim her baby). You can also put the kits in a pet carrier and close the door. Instead of latching it, prop it closed with an angled stick. When mom returns, she'll run in front of the carrier, push over the stick, and the door will pop open. If the mother does not return, contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. In spring and summer, people often set traps in a misguided effort to resolve garbage and other "nuisance" issues. Unfortunately, this approach leads to trapped and killed mothers who leave their starving young behind. If anyone in your neighborhood is setting traps, persuade them to use more humane and effective methods instead.

If you see a baby skunk (or a line of baby skunks, nose-to-tail) running around without a mother in sight, he (or they) could be orphaned. Skunks have poor eyesight, so if something scares the mother and she runs off, her babies can quickly lose sight of her. Monitor the situation to see if the mother rejoins her young. If the babies are on the move, put on gloves and slowly place a plastic laundry basket (with lattice sides) over the babies to keep them in one spot and make it easier for the mother to find them. Do not put a weight on top of the laundry basket. If the mother returns to her young, she will flip up the basket and get them. If she has trouble doing this, you should lift the basket to let them out. Remember that skunks are very near-sighted, so fast movements can startle them into spraying. If you move slowly and speak softly, though, you will not get sprayed. Skunks warn potential predators by stamping their front feet when they're alarmed, so if the mother doesn't do this, you're safe to proceed. If no mother comes to retrieve her young by dawn, contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. Once you're sure the animal needs your help, call a wildlife rehabilitator for assistance. If you're unable to locate a rehabilitator, try contacting an animal shelter, humane society, animal control agency, nature center, state wildlife agency or veterinarian. Never handle an adult animal without first consulting a wildlife professional. Even small animals can injure you. Once you've contacted someone who can help, describe the animal and his physical condition as accurately as possible. Unless you are told otherwise, here's how you can make an animal more comfortable for transport while you're waiting for help to arrive.

1. Put the animal in a safe container. For most songbirds, a brown paper bag is fine for transport. For larger birds or other animals, use a card board box or similar container. First, punch holes for air (not while the animal is in the box!) from the inside out and line the box with an old T-shirt or other soft cloth. Then put the animal in the box.

2. Put on thick gloves and cover the animal with a towel or pillowcase as you scoop him up gently and place him in the container.

3. Do not give the animal food or water. It could be the wrong food and cause him to choke, trigger serious digestive problems or cause aspiration pneumonia. Many injured animals are in shock, and force-feeding can kill them.

4. Place the container in a warm, dark, quiet place-away from pets, children and all noise (including the TV and the radio)-until you can transport the animal. Keep the container away from direct sunlight, air conditioning or heat.

5. Transport the animal as soon as possible. Leave the radio off and keep talking to a minimum. Because wild animals aren't accustomed to our voices, they can become very stressed by our noises. If they're injured or orphaned, they're already in a compromised condition. Keep their world dark and quiet to lower their stress level and help keep them alive.


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