Wildlife Emergency

Wildlife Emergency

Found a baby animal?  

Humans don’t leave their babies alone, so it’s only natural to be worried when you come across a seemingly abandoned and helpless baby.  “Where are the parents?” “What should I do?”  In most cases, the answers to these questions are “nearby” and “nothing”.  Most wild babies  are left alone for stretches of time while the parents hunt or forage.  They are often nearby and keeping an eye on the baby, but they won’t approach when humans are close.  Unless the baby is obviously injured, is in immediate danger from a predator or you are certain no parent has been around all day, your best choice is to leave it alone.  

Spring time is baby time, so familiarize yourself with wildlife in your local area.  Know where they nest or burrow and what you can do to protect that area.  Get the names and numbers of local wildlife rehabilitators, and know how to get there.

Birds

One of the most common baby animals brought into wildlife rehabilitators is birds.  Most of these were “rescued” unnecessarily.  When a baby bird (fledgling) is learning to fly, it will spend several days on the ground.  It will stretch and flutter its wings, hop around on the ground and perch in nearby bushes.  While this is an extremely vulnerable time for the bird, it’s also a crucial learning time.  The parents will be nearby and feed the baby.  Unless you’re doing nothing but watching the baby, you’ll probably miss seeing the parents.  One way to ensure they’re been around is to check for white/gray feces on the ground nearby.  Fledglings will poop right after they eat.  As long as you’re seeing this, there’s nothing more to do than to keep your pets away from the area and let nature take its course.

Occasionally, a younger bird that’s not yet ready to leave nest (nestling) will fall, or be blown, from the nest.  This is a case where some help is needed.  If you can locate and reach the nest, simply return the bird.  It’s untrue that human scent will keep the parents from returning. If you can see the nest, but can’t reach it, a shallow (2-3” deep) wicker basket can be used as a substitute.  Secure it in the same tree, place the nestling in it, then back away and watch.  The parents should find the new nest and continue feeding the nestling.  Remember, if you see poop in the nest, it means the bird is eating.

 

When Help Is Really Needed

  • Dog/cat has bird in mouth
  • Obvious injury/bleeding
  • Dead parent nearby
  • Parent has not returned to feed (no feces apparent on ground)

How to Help

  • Punch several holes into a small box (cardboard is best); punch from inside to outside
  • Line with soft material or t-shirt
  • Place bird in box and put in a quiet, dark room
  • Do not give food or water
  • Transport to wildlife rehabilitator as soon as possible

 

Squirrels

Baby squirrels can fall or be blown from their nest by a storm.  Most times, the mother will retrieve the baby and return it to the nest.  All you need tp do is keep the area safe from predators and watch.  

A squirrel which is fully furred, moving around and has a fluffy tail is old enough to take care of itself.  Sometimes younger squirrels will fall, or be blown, from the nest.  As long as the nest is intact, the mother will usually retrieve the baby during the day.  All you need to do is keep an eye on it and keep your pets inside.  If it’s cold outside, or the baby is still alone at the end of the day, you’ll have to intervene.

When Help is Really Needed

  • Furless baby remains on ground all day
  • Weather is cold or baby in direct sun
  • Dog/cat has animal in its mouth
  • Obvious injury/bleeding

How to Help

  • Cold weather:  To give the mother a chance to retrieve, place baby in small open box with warm towels. Wrap chemical hand warmer or hot water bottle in cloths and put at bottom of box. Be sure to have layers of material between baby and heat source to prevent burns.  Place box near location baby found.
  • Direct sun:  Keep baby near location originally found, but move out of direct sunlight to prevent overheating.
  • If mother hasn’t returned by night or baby injured:  Place in small box (be sure to have adequate air holes) with warm cloths.  Wrap a hot water bottle or chemical hand warmer in separate cloth and place at bottom of box.  Be sure to keep layer of cloth between baby and heat source to prevent burns.  Transport to wildlife rehabilitator as soon as possible.
  • Entire Nest Down/Destroyed:  Gather all babies Place in small box (be sure to have adequate air holes) with warm cloths.  Wrap a hot water bottle or chemical hand warmer in separate cloth and place at bottom of box.  Be sure to keep layer of cloth between baby and heat source to prevent burns.  Transport to wildlife rehabilitator as soon as possible.

Opossums

Baby opossums spend their first 3 months in the mother’s pouch, then they begin to ride on her back. Opossums are most active in early morning and early evening.  A baby occasionally falls off the mother’s back, especially if she’s trying to escape a threat.  If the baby is  less than 7 inches long (excluding the tail), it’s will need to be taken to a wildlife rehabilitator for help.  Babies larger than this are able to live on their own.  

When Help is Really Needed

  • Baby smaller than 7 inches  (excluding tail) found alone
  • Mother found dead (check the pouch for babies)
  • Dog/cat present with baby in mouth

How to Help

  • Put baby in box with adequate breathing holes and lined with warm cloths
  • Do not feed/water
  • Transport to wildlife rehabilitator as soon as possible

 

Rabbits

Many baby rabbits are “rescued” every year.  Most of these did not need any help.  Rabbits are very fragile animals, and human handling and transport reduce the odds of survival.  Be very sure your help is needed before interfering.  Rabbits nest in shallow depressions in the ground, and the babies will be left alone for the majority of time.  The mother will only return to the nest twice a day (dusk and dawn) to feed them.  At about 4 weeks of age, the babies begin to leave the nest.  While they are only about 5 inches in size, they are self-sufficient.  The only help they need from humans is to be left alone.  Keep your pets away from the area.  

When Help is Really Needed

  • Dog/cat presents animal
  • Obvious signs of injury/bleeding
  • Under 5 inches in size and found out of nest
  • Babies in nest with dead parent found

How to Help

  • Put babies under 5 inches in size back in nest; place a few long pieces of grass or straw on top of nest; if these are disturbed after dusk or dawn you’ll know mother is caring for them
  • If you must transport, place in small (well ventilated) box with soft cloths; keep contact and noise to a minimum and get to wildlife rehabilitator immediately

***Most baby rabbits will not survive in captivity, so only intervene if absolutely necessary

 

All efforts to help a wild animal must be done with the humans’ safety in mind.  Any animal with teeth can bite.  Injury or fear make this more likely.  Raccoons, foxes, skunks, bats and groundhogs are considered rabies vectors, that is they are considered more likely to carry this deadly virus.   If you encounter an injured adult animal, please call 772-579-0618 for advice.  Animal control officers are not required to transport wildlife, but many of our local officers will help.

 

If you are bringing an animal to our facility, please include the following information:

  • Your name and phone number
  • Where you found the animal
  • Any other information about its situations

Animal drop off is at our hospital as 4500 McCarty Road in Ft. Pierce.  We have a number of cages available to place animals on the front porch area.  If the box you brought the animal in will not fit in a cage, please place the animal and the warming blankets into one of our crates.  We check the drop off area frequently, but it’s also a good idea if you call us at 772-579-0618 to let us know you’re coming.