Spring is the time of year when it’s common to find orphaned or injured baby animals. Whether it’s a nest of baby birds that got blown out of a tree, or a baby bunny or squirrel whose mother got run over by a car, baby animals in need of help are a part of spring. Every concerned animal lover should have a few basic ideas about what to do or who to call if they find a baby bird or mammal that needs assistance.
Wild bird experts have great advice on how to determine if a baby bird needs help. A baby bird on the ground with feathers, open eyes, and the ability to hop around should be left alone. It takes a few days for fledglings to learn how to fly and they often stay close to the ground. Their parents will keep an eye on them and continue to feed them. A less-developed baby bird found on the ground can be returned to its nest if you see it. If the nest is destroyed, you can create a nest out of a small container and put the bird in it for its parents to find. A baby bird in immediate danger from a cat or dog should be placed in a nearby bush. Shoo the animal away and keep away from the baby so the mother will go to it. If you know for sure that a baby bird has been orphaned, the best option is to bring it to a wild bird rehabilitation facility.
Rabbit care experts can also help you determine if a baby rabbit needs help. If you find an undisturbed nest of baby rabbits that look healthy, leave it alone because the mother is probably close by. If the nest has been destroyed by a lawnmower, you can create a new nest nearby using dried grass and place the babies in it. A baby rabbit that has been in the mouth of a cat or dog may have internal injuries or puncture wounds. Bring the bunny to a wildlife rehabilitation facility for care. If you know for sure that the rabbits are orphans, do not try to take care of them yourself. Baby rabbits have very specialized nutrition and hydration requirements and should be taken to a wildlife rehabilitator. Transport them a shoebox with a soft lining and a source of warmth, like a heating pad or warm damp washcloth in a Ziploc bag.
Squirrels build their nests high in trees and it is common to find a baby squirrel that fell out on the ground, or even a whole nest of them if it got blown down by wind. An older juvenile with a fluffy tail and a body that is at least 6 inches can be left alone. Infant squirrels that fell on the ground need to be kept warm. Place a source of heat (like microwaved rice in a sock) in a small box for the squirrel. If the squirrel’s eyes are closed, place the container in the tree it likely fell out of; if the eyes are open, you can try to encourage it to climb first, then place the box in the tree if necessary. If the mother does not come for the baby in 6-8 hours, take it to a wildlife rehabilitation center. A baby squirrel that has been injured in a fall or attacked by a dog or cat should be taken to a wildlife rehabilitation facility right away.
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- Aaron Seminoff