Baby animal season and what people should do if they find them:
Spring means baby season for most wildlife and you may encounter baby animals in your yard and wonder what you should do.
General rule of thumb – leave it alone, probably not orphaned just because you don’t see an adult nearby. Most wildlife are pretty cautious and don’t want to draw attention of a predator to their nest or young, so don’t spend much time near them. Some wildlife may be rehabilitated if they are injured, but this has to be done by a trained and licensed rehabilitator. Most wildlife are protected by law and illegal to possess.
Observe the young animal from indoors or a hidden location and see if the parent comes to feed it (birds mainly). Rabbits only feed young twice a day, so doesn’t work as well with them.Squirrels will move young to a nest site.
If there are dogs or cats in the area, keep them indoors if possible, or away from the area.
Birds: Does the baby bird have any wing or tail feathers and does it hop around? If so, it is a fledgling and being out of the nest is a natural step in their learning to fly. They are usually able to fly in a day or two and get to safety. What can you do? Just place them in a tree or shrub nearby. It’s an old myth that if you touch them the mother won’t take care of them.
Birds: Does the bird have only downy feathers on the body (no wing or tail feathers) and it cannot hop around? If so, it’s a nestling. Their best chance of survival is to be put back in the nest. Look up – the nest should be very close since the bird can’t move around much. If it is too high and you can’t safely put the bird back in it, you can make an artificial nest with a plastic container with holes for drainage and some small sticks in it. Leaves and grass may stay too wet and the bird will die of hypothermia. Place the container as close as you can to the original nest and put the bird in it. Do NOT try to raise it yourself. Baby birds often eat every 10 minutes from sunrise to sunset and need specific foods to be healthy, not bread soaked in milk or just worms. Being a parent bird is hard work, and the young may grow up to be dependent on you for food.
Mammals: Rabbits and squirrels are the ones most commonly encountered. If you mow over a rabbit nest, place the young back inside if they have hopped out and cover it back up and leave the area. Mother rabbits only feed young twice a day, once in the morning, and once in the evening. She may move them to another nest site after they’ve been disturbed. You can check to see if she has been there by placing crossed sticks over the nest and if they’ve been moved later on, she has been there to feed them. Baby rabbits easily die of shock and should not be kept. Wild mammals have special dietary needs too and can’t be raised on regular cow’s milk. They can quickly develop diarrhea or constipation and die in captivity.
Turtles: Spring means these reptiles are coming out of hibernation. If you find them, leave them alone and don’t try to keep them as pets. We have gotten many calls about water turtles that people had “rescued” and ended up keeping, but then they got too big. Help turtles across the roads, but don’t keep them. Baby turtles hatch able to care for themselves.
Remember, most wild animals are protected by law and are illegal to possess. Also, is it worth the risk exposing yourself or your family to the parasites or diseases that some wildlife can transmit to humans? If we want to help wildlife, we can keep cats indoors, plant more native plants, reduce use of chemicals in our yard, and help protect wild places.