Nothing is more surprising than finding a baby bird or squirrel in a place you don’t expect it. While most baby animals stay close to their mothers in the beginning of their lives, it is not uncommon to find a baby on its own. Dr. Peter Helmer, who is board-certified in avian veterinary medicine and who heads BluePearl’s exotic veterinary service in Florida, explains what to do if you find a lost or injured baby animal in the wild:
It is human instinct to help a baby in need, but in most cases, human intervention is not necessary. If you find baby animals by themselves, there is a great chance that the mother knows where they are and will return shortly. It may surprise you to learn that many animal parents, such as mother rabbits, do not stay with their babies 24/7. Many animal mothers venture off to search for food throughout the day, leaving their babies unattended.
If you find babies that are in a safe place, like a tree or a nest, there is no need to handle them. However, if the babies are in a dangerous environment, like the street or an area with high sun exposure, you may want to gently wrap them in a towel and move them into a nearby tree or shaded area. As long as you don’t move the babies too far, the mother will easily find them when she returns. Be careful to keep your pets away from these babies.
If the baby animals are in a safe place and you are still worried about their safety, place a few blades of grass on their backs, and check on them in 12-24 hours. If the grass is gone, that is a good indicator that the mother returned.
If you find baby animals that are dangerously injured, you should take them to your closest veterinary hospital. When dealing with injured animals, it is important to remember that wild animals often view humans as predators and become defensive when we approach them. Contrary to popular belief, most animals are not aware that humans are trying to help them, and they will bite and scratch in defense. Some animals can carry diseases such as rabies that can affect humans. Always remember that your safety is a top priority. If there is any possibility that the animal could harm you, ensure your safety and call animal control.
If the injured animals are safe to transport, place them in a wrapped towel, box or pet carrier. It is important to confine the animals to make them feel secure and to prevent them from roaming the car freely. Avoid handling the animals as much as possible, as this could be dangerous to their health. An injured animal will typically refuse food or water, so providing a source of water is not as urgent as getting to a veterinarian as fast as possible.
The animal hospital will assess the injuries, provide any treatment if possible and then contact a wildlife rehabilitation facility.
In conclusion, if you find a baby animal, the best course of action is usually to leave it alone. “The animal’s parents will do the best job at raising the baby compared to a wildlife rehabilitation facility or veterinarian,” says Dr. Helmer, “Unless the animal is injured, it is best to leave it alone and let nature take its course.”