Spring and summer are the times of the year when we get outside the most. The warm weather draws us out where we inevitably run up against wildlife. While this is mostly an enriching experience, sometimes we can go a little overboard—and understandably so, particularly in the presence of what appear to be wild orphaned animals. Babies always touch our hearts, but when it comes to wildlife, we need to think along the mindset of “What’s the best thing for them?”
That answer is a simple one: Leave them where they belong. Wild animals belong in the wild, and just because a baby is on its own when you stumble upon it, does not mean the momma has left for good. Oftentimes, mothers leave their babies in a safe place, whether it be a nest or den, and go in search of food to bring back later in the day. They will not approach with humans standing around, so it’s best to observe from a distance if you are unsure if the animal has a mother.
Remember as well that animal mothers will not abandon their young simply due to human scent. If you find wildlife such as birds or rabbits who have wandered from or fallen out of their nests, place them back in the nest if you can. If the bird’s nest is too high or damaged, we urge you to leave the baby at the bottom of the tree where you found it. In all likelihood, the mother will come back and care for her baby.
No wild animal is ever meant to be kept as a pet. Yet, we realize that sometimes, we have no choice but to rehab them, care for them, and then release them. However, wild orphans taken in by humans are 10 times less likely to survive into adulthood and are even less likely to ever being releasable into their natural habit. Dr. Bailey has assisted in the care of a number of wildlife injuries, and we strive to give the animal the care it needs in a fast, efficient way so it can be released back to its mother as soon as possible.
In the case that you do find an injured or sick animal, please call either a wildlife rehabilitator or Department of Natural Resources law enforcement who will assess the situation. For more information, please check out the DNR’s page.