Although spring seems to be really late this year, the birds and animals are still on track. Babies have already been arriving in rehab facilities across the state, and pretty soon we will be inundated with little beings to care for. Our efforts are always toward the goal of raising healthy youngsters to release age and returning them to the wild, and to the lives they were born to live.
As hard as we, work, however, even the best wildlife rehabilitator cannot raise a young animal as well as its natural parents. The birds and mammals we release, after hand-rearing, go out into the world with a lack of education. We do our best to make sure they can feed themselves, care for themselves, protect themselves, but in truth, only their biological parents can do that with any real guarantee.
Many of the babies that come to us every year never needed rescue to start with. Good-hearted people see a baby bird on the ground, or baby bunnies alone in a field, and immediate assume they have been orphaned. Fawns are taken from their mothers every year, simply because the mother is not in sight.
One of the goals of wildlife educators is to help people understand the ways of the wild, including how wild animals care for their young.
It’s normal, for instance, for a fledgling bird to wind up on the ground for a little while before it learns to use its wings. They don’t need to be rescued. Just keep the cat and dog inside for a few hours, and you’ll see that the parents are nearby, encouraging the little one to fly. And fly, it will.
The “old wives’ tale” that a bird will reject its young if handled by a human is false. If you find a nestling (baby bird who is not fully feathered yet) on the ground, do your best to find the nest and return it. If you can’t reach the nest, put the baby in a container, (one that will drain, such as a strawberry basket, or is lined with something which will keep the bird dry and clean), in a somewhat sheltered area close to the nest. Make sure the container is secure, and won’t fall. The parental instincts of birds are so strong, that they will care for their baby in the new container, until it’s old enough to fledge.
Deer leave their fawns alone to keep them safe from predators. The fawn has very little scent, unlike the adult deer, so they will bed them down in a safe area and only return to them to nurse and check them over periodically. Fawns will get up and wander sometimes, but never far from the original hiding place, and their mothers will always be able to find them. Leave fawns alone, and trust nature.
Mother rabbits only return to their nests once or twice a day to nurse their babies. It’s perfectly normal to find a nest of baby rabbits without a parent to be seen. Keep pets away from the area, and make note of the location of the nest to avoid mowing too close, and those babies will be just fine.
Of course, if an animal is obviously injured, or you know for a certainty that the parent is dead, then you have a legitimate rescue situation on your hands. To find a rehabber near you who can help, visit the NY Department of Education’s website. They have a directory of rehabilitators there. You can also give local vets a call, as many vets will keep wildlife rehabilitators’ numbers handy for such emergencies.
In addition, please read the following excellent articles on what to do if you find a wild baby.
Baby Birds: http://audubonportland.org/wcc/urban/babybirds
Baby Wildlife in General: http://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/6956.html
For future reference, you can always find links to this information at the bottom of our website.