Saturday, April 10, 2010

If You Should Find a Baby Wild Animal

This is the season when such orphans are mostly found. Here's what to do if you come across one.

1.) Do not rescue it until/unless you are certain it really is an orphan or it really is in a hazardous situation (exposed to dogs, for example).

Bring your cats inside for a few days; walk your dog on a leash for a few days.

Mother deer leave their young unattended while they go off to feed, and only return at dusk. So that adorable fawn is probably fine. Leave it alone until the next day unless you see clear signs of injury or sickness. By the next day it ought to be hiding in a different spot.  If a fawn is starving, it is likely to follow you around, and then you know it needs help.

Mother cottontails also leave their young alone in the nest, returning only at dusk. Bunnies in the wild are only fed at dawn and dusk. Arrange some twigs or string in a pattern over the nest. If you find that pattern disturbed the next morning, you know the mother has been back.

A bunny as big as a baseball is already on its own, even though that's hard to believe.

2.) If you are sure an animal needs rescuing, pick it up, put it in a box with some old rags (not terrycloth towels, as tiny claws tend to become tangled in the loops of the fabric) and supply a little warmth. A strong lamp shining down on the creatures will do the trick, as will a heating pad set on LOW and put under only HALF the box (so the baby can crawl to the other side if overheated). Or you can halfway fill an old sock with uncooked rice, tie the end, and nuke it for 30-60 seconds in the microwave. Wrap the heat sock in several layers of rags and set it beside the orphan(s). You only want to supply about as much heat as the mother's warm tummy would.

3.) DO NOT FEED the babies anything or give them any water. Inexperienced people tend to choke babies this way. Especially do not give milk, as it gives most wild babies diarrhea, which is very dangerous for them. They need a special formula.

4.) Call your nearest wildlife rehabilitator. If you don't know the number, your vet almost certainly has it.  The Internet is also a handy tool for locating rehabbers.  It is in the best interest of the animal (s) - and your family - to let someone trained and licensed handle this job.

5.) In the Eastern U.S. and Canada, the following species are considered "rabies vector species", meaning the chance that they have or carry rabies is higher than in other species: fox, raccoon, groundhog, bat, skunk.

The rabies virus is carried in the saliva, so you do not have to be bitten to get it; you are at risk if you even get the saliva on your skin. Therefore, your first job, if you discover orphans of these species (or of any species, for that matter), is to protect yourself, your children, your neighbors, and your pets. Try to place a cardboard box or other secure, non-airtight container over the wild babies, weight it down with a brick or stone, and then call your county's animal control department to come get them. Animal control will take them to a rehabber who has been vaccinated against rabies.

Guard the babies while you are waiting, so no children, pets, or wild predators get to them.

If you absolutely have to handle a rabies vector species (for its own good, I mean, not to play with it or show it to people or anything like that) wear thick gloves, preferably with rubber kitchen gloves under them. WASH YOUR HANDS afterward, thoroughly.  Of course you do this after handling any animal, right?

Squirrels do NOT carry rabies. Not a single case has ever been reported. It can be induced in squirrels in the lab, but has never been seen in the wild.


Animals old enough to threaten you are old enough to hurt you.  (Exception:  baby oppossums are all threat and display, but no bite.) 

Babies with eyes still sealed shut will almost never try to attack you.

A squirrel whose tail is already fluffy (bigger around than your thumb) is already capable of inflicting serious damage.


Spinneretta said...

We once found an orphaned opossum- it was so sweet and cute :) we took it to a local vet because the wildlife reahabber I called seemed to think it was already too big for her! The vets thought it was tiny!
My daughter wanted to call her 'Lovie' :)