All too often a wild animal baby doesn't need rescuing at all, and the human rescuer is actually reducing the animal's chance for survival. According to the Humane Society of the United States, "If You Care, Leave Them There."
The message is that you should not rush out to capture every fawn, duckling or other wild baby unless you have watched and waited long enough to ensure that the animal's parents are either unwilling or unable to provide care. Wild animals of all shapes and sizes are born during the spring and summer months. In your own backyard, you may come across baby birds, rabbits, squirrels, raccoons, fawns and other young wildlife as they make they make their way into the world.
For many people, the pleasure of seeing these young creatures is mixed with a sense of protectiveness - of wanting to help them survive. But spotting a baby animal by himself doesn't necessarily mean he's an orphan. Many wildlife parents leave their young alone during the day, sometimes for long periods. The parent is usually nearby and quite conscious of her young. Also, keep in mind that despite their small size, many young animals are actually independent enough to fend for themselves.
A fawn (baby deer) who is curled up in the grass and appears approachable. His mother is most likely out of sight, but nearby and watching you.
A bird who is fully feathered on his body with evidence of tail feathers, hopping on the ground, but unable to fly. This is a fledgling (adolescent bird), and his parents are probably nearby.
A rabbit who is four inches long with open eyes and erect ears. She is independent from her mother and able to fend for herself.
A squirrel who is nearly full sized, has a full and fluffy tail, and is able to run, jump and climb. She is independent.
How can you tell if an animal needs your help or should be left alone? Remember, many animals who appear to be orphaned are not. Do not attempt to rescue animals unless one or more of the signs mentioned below is present.
A wild animal presented to you by a cat or dog
An apparent or obvious broken limb.
A featherless or nearly featherless bird (nestling) on the ground.
Evidence of a dead parent nearby
If a wild animal exhibits any of the above signs, you should immediately call one of the following local resources for assistance. You will find listings for most of these in your telephone directory.
Animal Control Agency
Wildlife/Exotic Animals Veterinarian
Wild Bird Store
State Wildlife Agency
Once you've contacted the right person,describe the animal and his physical condition as accurately as possible. Unless directed otherwise, here's how you can make an animal more comfortable for transport or while you're waiting for help to arrive.
Punch holes - from the inside out - inside a cardboard box or other container. A paper bag may be suitable for most songbirds.
Line the box with an old T-shirt or other soft cloth.
Put on gloves.
Use a towel or pillowcase to cover the animal, then scoop him up gently and place him in the container.
Do not give the animal food or water. He could choke, develop digestive problems or drown. Many injured animals are in shock, and eating or drinking can make it worse.
Place the container in a warm, dark, quiet place - away from pets, children and noise - until you can transport the animal.
Transport the animal as soon as possible. While in the car, keep the carrier out of the sun and away from direct air conditioning or heat. Keep the car radio off and talking to a minimum.
Never handle an adult animal without first consulting with a wildlife professional. Even small animals can injure you.
Surveys and studies have shown that most baby animals turned into agencies probably were not abandoned or orphaned at all - they were simply discovered by a human. So if you see young wild animals and are not certain that the babies are orphaned, please remember: If you care, leave them there!
Reprinted with the kind permission of the Humane Society of the United States.