Found a Baby in Need?
Many times, well meaning humans actually do more harm than good by trying to "save" wildlife that they think are in danger. There are also many "old wives tales" that are widely accepted as truth. We get in so many babies who really didn't need to be "rescued", but were going through the natural process of growing up.
If you do find a baby in need of rescue, please do NOT give it any food or water, as this could further compromise it's condition. Place it in a safe, warm place, away from pets and children, and find a local rehabilitator to properly care for it.
NEVER feed cows milk, or any version of cow's milk (such as half and half or heavy cream) to any animal.
This page is to give you some tips on how to know if an animal is in need of rescue and to explain a couple of old wives tales.
Old Wives Tale:
If you touch a baby the mother will smell the human scent on them and will reject or kill it. This is most commonly heard in reference to birds. The reality is, very few birds in the world have any sense of smell at all and those who do smell either do not live in the US, or use their sense of smell to find rotting flesh, so human smell would not really bother them. With mammals this is not true either. The mom may think their baby smells gross, and give it a huge bath, but she will not reject or kill it.
In most cases, the best help you can give to a baby is to put it back where its mother can find it.
When its time for babies to leave the nest, they are almost fully feathered and they do spend a lot of time on the ground, not able to get back to their nest. This is perfectly normal, it is how they learn. If you see a baby bird on the ground, who appears in need of help, unless it is in immediate danger of being killed by a predator, stay back and check on it from time to time to be sure mom is coming back to help it along. In most cases, mom is around and teaching this baby how to be a "big bird". She and sometimes the father will call to the baby until it flies up to a short bush, until it can make longer and longer flights and eventually become a "big bird".
If they are injured, or in immediate danger by a predator, then yes, it does need to be saved.
If the baby has no feathers, or just pin feathers, then try to find its nest and put it back in (mom cannot pick baby up and take it back to the nest). If you cannot find its nest, please call a rehabilitator.
Any orphaned squirrel would be much better off if you can return it to its nest. However, understand that mom cannot pick their babies up and carry them back to the nest. So, if you cannot physically put the baby back, please take it in and find a rehabilitator. If "pinky" squirrels or babies without their eyes open are found on the ground, out of the nest, they are in need of rescue. Put them in a box, keep them warm, and find a rehabber to properly care for them.
If you see small, fully furred squirrels scampering around, chances are they are learning to find food by playing and frolicking. If it appears injured, or is crying, then catch it, place it in a box, keep it warm, and find a rehabilitator.
The most common way to find baby opossums (called joeys) that are in need of rescue is inside the pouch of a dead mother. This sounds gross, and honestly it is a bit. But, if you hit a mother opossum on the road, its a good idea to check the pouch and see if there are joeys. If so, remove them (with latex gloves), put them in a box, keep them warm, and find a rehabilitator. Please wash your hands after doing so.
Many people think they have found orphaned bunnies when they find babies alone. Mother rabbits leave their young most of the day, only coming back to feed them a few times, mostly at dawn and dusk. If you find a bunny that you think is in need of help, try to locate its nest. If the nest is intact, put the bunny back. If a bunny is fully furred and has its eyes open, its probably old enough to make it on its own. If you find a baby bunny who does not have its eyes open, and you cannot find its nest, it does need help.
If you find a nest that is seriously disturbed, try to put it back together, but DO NOT move it! Mother bunnies expect their nest to be exactly where they left them. Moving them as far as just a foot can ensure that mom won't return.
Understand that raising orphaned bunnies without experience is very tricky. Even many experienced rehabilitators will tell you it is nearly impossible to keep them alive. This is due to the fact that they need the cecotropes from a female rabbit each day. This is the reason that only rehabilitators with adult female rabbits in permanent residents are usually successful at rehabilitating bunnies.
Also, if you find an orphan in need, please do not keep it in temperatures above 80 degrees as this can be deadly.
If you come across a fawn in the wild who is laying silently with its head up and alert, its probably waiting for mom to come back. Mothers do not stay with their babies. They put them in a place that they consider to be safe and come back to feed and clean them several times a day. This is called "parking" the babies.
Now, if the fawn is crying excessively, has flies all around it, appears lethargic, or is injured in any way or is near a dead mother, it is in need of rescue. Mothers also usually have two fawn. They do not leave them in the same place. So, if you find one who is obviously in need, then you need to look for the other as its probably in need as well.