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Spotted a raccoon? Better stay back! It’s always best to give wildlife as much space as possible, so as to not disturb them. But some wildlife might be in actual danger or distress and might need our help. Check out this little guy, or this lovable creature here (extreme cuteness alert). Sometimes, baby animals lose their parents or, on some occasions, baby animals are even abandoned. This is due to human or other interference such as trapping, window or car collisions, dog or cat attacks, or shootings. The main and most important thing to check, if you want to help, is this: do they really need your help or is it just better to let them be. Sometimes, it’s hard to decide and so your best choice would be to call a professional, like the Wildlife Emergency Services at 1-866-WILD-911 or check out the U.S. directory.  Another important thing to understand is that animals will not stop caring for their babies just because humans touched them. It’s always better not to touch, but it doesn’t mean you have to take a baby skunk home, just because your kid touched it!

If you’re certain that the animal needs your immediate help, don’t leave her or him behind! To be prepared, it’s best to learn the basics of caring for orphaned wildlife. Here are some useful tips!

1. What to look for before capture

Observe the animal and search for signs of illness or injury. Use the information you have to describe the situation to a professional. Note that if the animal is walking away from you or flying away or if the animal is clearly trying to defend itself – your help might be unnecessary. Best thing you can do, according to wildlife specialists, is to check back in a few hours, if possible. Then again, if the situation seems dire, or if the animal is clearly abandoned and to0 young to care for herself or if she’s injured or ill – take initiative and help her.

2. Make sure you remember where you found the animal

The animal you found might be lucky enough to get released back into nature. It’s important for you to remember and make a note of the exact location. If you’ve found a bird next to an empty nest, bring the nest along with you, so the species might be identified.

3. Prepare a carrier

A cardboard box with holes will do just fine, as well as a cat or small dog carrier. For very small birds and mammals, you can use a paper bag. Just make sure to open ventilation holes.  A towel would work great for a bed, while grass clippings do not. Make sure that the container closes securely.

4. Capturing

If you think the animal might be dangerous to you – please call a professional before trying to capture it. There’s no point in putting yourself or your family in danger. If the animal is not dangerous (like a baby rabbit), just pick them up very gently with a towel or a piece of cloth.

5. Keep them warm

It’s important to keep baby animals warm, injured or not. Heat sources can be a warm water bottle, heating pad, or any other heating device, as long as it’s set on low and that it’s not touching the animal directly.

6. Let them rest

Keep the orphaned animal in a dark, dry, and warm place. Make sure it’s quiet and that no humans or other animals might disturb them.

7. Contact a professional

Now that the animal is mostly out of danger and if you haven’t already done this, contact a wildlife professional. Naturally, if the animal is bleeding or suffering, drive to the nearest vet or call the hotline provided above immediately. You will be able to get advice on where to go and what to do for each specific emergency.

8. Wash your hands

After handling a wild animal, make sure to wash your hands with warm soapy water for at least 20 seconds. Wash all towels and sheets that the animals came in contact with and avoid contact with your dogs, cats, or any other animals living with you. This will help prevent the spreading of  diseases and possible parasites to both you and your furry family.

9. Wildlife animals are not up for adoption

Keeping wildlife animals is illegal. Let them be free, as they should be. Each animal has his or her own requirements that need to be met in order to get released back into the wild. Try your best not to ruin nature’s plan – help them as much as you can and let the professionals do their work.

10. Overnight care

In case you need to keep the animal with you for the night or a few hours, remember that cow’s milk, baby formulas, and most commercial dog and cat food is harmful for wild animals, as is flea spray and most medications. Here you can find a list of animals and how to care for them overnight and here is some more detailed information.

Image Source: Kevin Brennan/Flickr


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9 comments on “How to Care for Orphaned Wildlife”

Click to add comment
Cara Taran Petricca
4 Years Ago

As a rehabber I get many calls from people trying to be evasive when they have found a cute baby animal. They try to gain information with the idea of keeping and raising the animal. BAD IDEA. Not only are they putting themselves and their families at risk of disease, and parasites but they are putting the animals life at risk. If not raised correctly they ARE at risk for not surviving in the wild..or they can be confiscated and killed. If you are a "backyard rehabber" there is a big difference between raising them so they survive and raising them so they can thrive in the wild. I see many people with their adorable photos of them snuggling baby squirrels etc... Guess what.. You're doing It wrong... If your baby is still able to be handled after its weaned than you have failed this animal.

Caprice Insco
4 Years Ago

I'm the neighborhood person that always has the baby squirrels, possums and injured birds etc brought to them ~ I have an assortment of feed and a safe room w/ habitats and have done successful soft-releases with 90% of them... if they are badly injured or if I am unfamiliar with how to rehab/release them ~ I have local contacts w/ sanctuaries and rehabs that I take them to... it's very rewarding tho and I have had a few releases stay in my area and bring their babies back to visit ~

Eddie Delisio
4 Years Ago

Susan Haley

Leo Paquin
4 Years Ago

Exactly. A Perfect Formula you have there for the Respect we Owe to Animals in the Wild. Even Nathan Bauder owes it to those Wild families and solo animals, not to shoot them anymore, not to kill them anymore. Even Nathan Bauder must accept this before we can Move on to Other Important things. Even Nathan Bauder!

Terry Shapiro
4 Years Ago

only locally and federally licensed wild life rehabilitators should be rehabbing wildlife. it is against the law for anyone else to do so. wild animals should be helped, but if you do it, please be extremely cautious as all wildlife can possess deadly bacteria, parasites and diseases that will infect us. if you see a wild animal in need of help, call a professional. and if you don't know of one, now is the chance for you to go look one up and keep a list handy.

Margo Michel
4 Years Ago

I knew a wildlife rehab professional. She had rooms devoted to the exact degree of care any given animal needed, and she would gradually cycle them through the rooms until they finally were let into a 10 acre area. Once they were through with that phase, they were released into the wild.

Geanina Cristina
4 Years Ago

am vazut doi pui din astia

Charlie Dodgson
4 Years Ago

I worry that once a wild animal is aided back to health, it is not good to release them back into "the wild" again--now that they have learned to trust "humans," the day will come when they trust just one more human, and that one will hurt or kill it, if for no other reasons than their own Ignorance had them fear that that animal may attack them, or, even "just for fun" :(

Donna Brooks
27 Dec 2013

Professional wildlife rehabbers raise animals with as little human interaction as possible to allow them to survive on their own in the wild. Of course, very young orphans must be fed by hand, and in the case of mammals, bottle fed, but the goal of those who care for wildlife is to give the animal a safe life in the wild whenever possible. If an animal cannot be released, due to human imprinting or injury, there are sanctuaries that can give them a safe home for the rest of their lives.

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