Sweetbriar’s Wildlife Rehabilitation Center provides quality medical care and rehabilitation for all injured, sick and orphaned wildlife, and shares its knowledge with the people who care about them

Sweetbriar’s Wildlife Rehabilitation Center provides quality medical care and rehabilitation for all injured, sick and orphaned wildlife, and shares its knowledge with the people who care about them

You found a baby wild animal – what should you do??

This reference sheet was compiled to assist people who receive calls about distressed wildlife. The information was designed to help determine if a baby animal or bird needs attention during “the baby season”, and what to do once it is determined an animal needs help.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Under DEC wildlife regulations, it is illegal for an unlicensed individual to possess a native wild animal. 

It is important to contact the proper authorities as soon as possible for assistance, such as a wildlife rehabilitator or your local wildlife agency.


Mammals

Rabbits

A young rabbit is on its own if: the fur is fluffy, the ears are standing and it is the size of a man’s fist.. If it was brought in by a dog or a cat, it is considered injured (although it may not appear to be) and needs antibiotics.

Moving a Rabbit Nest

It is not recommended to move a rabbit nest. There has been minimal success with moving a nest and the mother finding it. If you can wait, usually 1-2 weeks, the babies will be gone and you can continue with your plans. If you must move the nest, try to place it close to the original spot. If your dog is the one who found the nest the kindest thing to do is walk your dog on a leash, or keep it away from the area.

If a Rabbit Nest is Disturbed or Moved

Replace all of the fur inside the nest and cover the nest well with dry grass. The mother may return to care for her young. It is a myth that a mother will reject her babies if only briefly touched by a human or dog. There has been good success with placing rabbits back in the nest and the mother returning later and taking care of her young.

Monitoring a Disturbed or Moved Rabbit Nest

Before moving the babies from the nest, check to see if the mother rabbit returns. Chances are you won’t actually see the mother returning because she usually feeds her babies at dawn and dusk… Also, place a couple strands of string on top of the nest or make a tee pee from sticks and put it over the nest. The next day you will see if the objects were disturbed, if so, that is an indication that the mother was there. It is best to let the mother rabbit raise her babies. Rabbits are hard to raise.

Adult Rabbits

If you can get near one, something is wrong. Use a box with air holes for transporting. People sometimes think that rabbits are comforted by petting as they will remain very still when they are touched. This stillness is actually a sign of fear.

Squirrels

If a baby squirrel is approaching people, it needs help. If the squirrel is curled up on the ground and is vocal, warm and appears to be uninjured, the mother may come back for her baby. If you see a nest place the squirrel in a shallow box at the base of the tree. The mother squirrel may hear her baby and take it back to the nest. If the nest has been destroyed, she may take it to a back up nest. It is always best for the babies to be raised by their mother than by humans. The mother will not object to her babies smelling like a human, but she will not take them back if they are cold. If you wait till just before dark and she has not come to get them, please place the babies in a cardboard box with air holes, and a tee shirt and call us for further assistance.


Chipmunks

It is very unusual to find a baby. If one is found, it probably needs special attention. If the mother is killed, the babies may wander out of the nest because they are hungry.

Groundhogs

It is very unusual to find a baby. If one is found, it probably needs special attention. If the mother is killed, the babies may wander out of the burrow because they are hungry. Sometimes, the babies are washed out of the burrow during a rain storm.

Opossum

These animals are on their own when they are about 8-10 inches long

(not including the tail.) If one is found smaller than 8-10 inches, it probably needs attention. Orphaned babies are often found looking for food near a dead mother, especially alongside roads. These animals rarely contract rabies because of their low body temperature

I found a dead opossum.  How do I know if there are babies? 

Many times during the spring and summer months a female opossum may be found dead in a yard or on the side of the road.  Before you think about disposing of the animal, a bit of thinking could save up to 13 lives!  As marsupials, opossums carry their babies in their pouch.  Although a mother opossum may not survive being hit by a car, her babies in the pouch can survive the impact.  It is a good idea to check the pouch for any babies before getting rid of the mother.  Checking for babies not for you?  That’s okay!  You can put the dead opossum in a box gently with a shovel and call us and we’ll arrange to have the opossum’s pouch checked for you.

Fox

These babies often play in the woods under their mothers care. Before disturbing them, observe from a distance to see if the mother is indeed watching over them. It’s best to leave them alone unless there is an obvious problem. If the mother has been killed, the babies may wander out of the den because they are hungry. They may be crying, look weak or sickly. In this case, the babies need attention. Don’t pick these animals up with your bare hands because of the concern of rabies.

Deer

Fawns are often found lying quietly in a field. If you find one and it is not crying, leave it there and check back in 12-24 hours. If it is injured or crying, then it needs special attention.

Raccoons and Bats

Unfortunately, we are not licensed to accept these animals but please give us a call and we will direct you to the proper rescues and rehabilitation centers.

Bats

If you find an injured bat, please be sure not to touch it with your bare hands.

Bats are a rabies vector species, which means that they are capable of carrying the rabies virus. Sweetbriar is not licensed to  work with bats for this reason. However, we do have resources that can be of help. If you have a problem with bats, visit the “Bat World” website, then click on “Bat Problems.” If you have found an injured bat and need assistance, click to “Local Rescue” and click on the state in which you live for a rehabilitator licensed to work with bats.

 
Young Cotton-Tail Rabbits

Young Cotton-Tail Rabbits