Many wild animals are born during the spring and summer months. People often think when they come across a young baby animal without its mother, it is orphaned. Often trying to help the young animal, a person will “rescue” it. Just because someone finds a young animal alone doesn’t mean it is an orphan. Often, parents leave their young alone during the day but usually the mother is nearby. Even though a baby may seem vulnerable, many young can fend for themselves.
You can tell if an animal needs help if you look for some common signs, such as if the animal is bleeding, has a broken limb, is shivering, has a dead parent, or is a featherless bird. You can contact a wildlife rehabilitator, animal shelter, animal control agency, nature center, or state wildlife agency for help. To make the animal more comfortable, punch holes in a cardboard box (a paper bag will suffice for most songbirds). Line the box with an old T-shirt or soft cloth. Wear gloves and use a towel or pillowcase to cover the animal in order to pick it up gently to place in the box. Don’t give the animal food or water; it could choke or drown. Injured animals are often in shock and feeding or watering it could make the situation worse. Place the box in a quiet place until you can transport it. When transporting, keep the car radio off and talking to a minimum. Never handle an adult animal before consulting a professional. You could be injured.
Often, a baby deer is thought to be orphaned if found alone but usually the mother is near. A doe only visits and nurses her fawn a few times each day in order to avoid predators. Unless the mother is dead, leave the fawn alone. If you have handled the fawn, take a towel, rub it in the grass, and then wipe the fawn down to remove the human scent. Return the fawn to where you found him. A fawn lying on his side, wandering or crying may be orphaned but if it is alone and quiet, it is probably okay.
It is a myth that birds will abandon their young if a person touches them. If baby birds fall out of their nest, you should place them back unless you are unable to do so. If the nest has fallen or been destroyed, you can hang a small basket close to where the nest was originally (make sure it is open-weave so that the birds won’t drown if it rains and not so deep that the mother cannot see out of it). Watch for the mother bird about an hour. If she doesn’t return, you can contact a wildlife rehabilitator. Young birds with feathers that are walking around on the ground may be fledglings and are learning to fly. This is normal as they learn from the ground up. Fledglings may remain on the ground for several days until they learn to fly but parent birds will feed their young a few times per hour. If there are animals around, you can put the fledglings in a basket and hang them from a tree limb.
If you find a baby rabbit’s nest with uninjured babies, leave them alone. These mothers are only with their babies 2 to 3 times a day in order to avoid predators. If you suspect the babies are orphaned, cover the nest back with the surrounding natural materials (grass and leaves) and put an “X” of sticks or yarn over the nest. Try not to touch the babies as mother rabbits are sensitive and may abandon her babies. If the next day the “X” is moved but the nest is still covered, the mother has returned to nurse her young. If the nest is undisturbed for 24 hours, the babies could be orphaned. Keep all animals away from the area as they will kill the baby rabbits. A young rabbit 4 inches long, open eyes, and erect ears is independent from its mother and can survive.
A baby raccoon alone for more than a few hours is probably orphaned. Mother raccoons don’t let their young out of their sight. If you see a baby raccoon wandering alone, contact a wildlife rehabilitator. The internet can provide local rehabilitators or visit Wildlife International online.
Pet of the Week
Magpie, 10 weeks old at intake, is a domestic short hair Tabby taken in as a stray on Aug. 7. She was running around a parking lot trying to get into car engine bays. Magpie's a calm and gentle kitty whose low-key demeanor is the perfect compliment to her roomies, Heathcliff and Elvira (also easy going). The three of them often take turns snuggling and napping together. Magpie is a sweetie who can be skittish at first, but sheds her insecurity with either a little loving or playtime with a teaser. Her adoption fee is $75 and helps cover the cost of her spay, vaccinations, worming, microchip and care while at the Clay County Humane Shelter in Brazil. Magpie's a soft, silky purring kitty who'll perk you up. Call at 812-446-5126 or fill out an application online.