Is This Animal Abandoned?
Spring is here and with that comes lots and lots of baby animals. Several species of animals including deer, foxes, and bunnies will leave their little ones for long periods of time while they are out finding food. Sometimes they leave them from dawn til dusk.
For instance, mother deer leave their babies from sun-up til sundown, not only because they are foraging and building their milk reserves, but mother deer have scent glands that attract male deer and predators. Both male deer and predators will kill the baby deer, so the mother wisely stays away from her baby all day long. Baby deer do not have these scent glands and therefore are safer during the day when their mother is away.
Many people see the baby animal and keenly keep a watch on it, hoping the mother comes back. Maybe an hour or two or three goes by and the human begins to panic. Humans don’t leave their babies for that length of time, so they naturally think something must have happened to the mother animal for IT to have done so.
Don’t panic! The mom will return!
The major mistake we, as humans, make is to try and tend to the animal, or bring the animal inside, or call animal control. But the animals are just doing what they do, they are not abandoning their offspring.
If a baby squirrel falls from a tree, as they sometimes do, the mother will find it and carry it back to the nest. It might take a while if she’s out gathering nuts. Just leave it alone and she’ll find it. If the baby has no fur, you could put a glove on (as to not leave your scent on the animal) and carefully put it into an open, shallow box to keep it warmer. The mom will find it in there.
Baby birds often fall out of the nest. Sometimes they are pushed out by accident. If the baby doesn’t have feathers yet, or just a thin downy coat of feathers, you can gently (glove on) place the baby back in the nest. But older babies might be learning to fly, so if you see them on the ground you should leave them there.
Remember certain animals can give you rabies, so be very careful when approaching them or trying to help them. They can also spread other gross things to humans. When in doubt, call your local wildlife specialist. Never bring an animal inside your home. If they ARE sick or injured they need specialized care by a professional who can rehabilitate them and release them back into the wild. They cannot be released into the wild and survive if they have been raised by humans for any length of time.
Remember, mother animals are very protective of their young! If they catch you by them they might attack. It is also possible that if they see you by their baby, they might stay away until you are gone.
Signs that a wild animal needs your help
- Presented by a cat or dog
- Evidence of bleeding
- An apparent or obvious broken limb
- Featherless or nearly featherless and on the ground
- A dead parent nearby
- Crying and wandering all day long
Finding help for the animal
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.
Capturing and transporting the animal
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 their 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 cardboard 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 them up gently and place them in the container.
3. Do not give the animal food or water. It could be the wrong food and cause them 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.
(sections in BOLD are from the Humane Society)