When to Help Abandoned Wildlife
March 23, 2013
During the spring, young wildlife are abundant. Everyday someone brings a baby bird, raccoon, squirrel or opossum into our hospital for help. They are indeed adorable, but most of these babies would have been better off left alone. Remember these tips as you try to discern whether or not a baby animal is in need of rescue.
As young birds are learning to fly, they will be on the ground and easily approachable by humans. Just because a baby is on the ground, it does not mean you should “help” it. Remember the following before you scoop it up:
- Older babies (feathered with short tails) are supposed to be hopping around on the ground. Leave these alone. If you have concerns about the whereabouts of the parents, watch from a distance for 30 minutes. Parent birds will visit their young frequently to feed them and encourage flight.
- If you don’t see adults coming around, do everything you can to try to return young babies to the nest. Get a ladder, climb a tree, make a new nest (shallow boxes with small towels work OK) and place it as close as you can to the real nest. Young birds rarely survive rehabilitation, so be creative and try to figure out how to get the baby off the ground and into its nest or makeshift nest.
- Mother birds will not reject their young after a human has touched the baby.
- Injured babies or babies that have been brought inside by the household cat should be taken to a local veterinarian who admits wildlife. The same is true for young babies that are repeatedly pushed out of the nest because this usually means that the parent bird detects a defect in that particular baby.
- Healthy babies that are at risk from neighborhood pets can go directly to a rehabilitator. But, it is preferable to confine dogs and cats until baby season is over and leave the birds where they are.
- Frightened or injured water birds like herons and egrets attack humans by pecking at their eyes. Therefore it is better not to handle these large birds unless you know what you are doing. Immediately contact a rehabilitator or your local animal control agency to help rescue these animals.
- A call to Keepers of the Wild at 843 636 1659 can help you determine what to do.
Baby raccoons and foxes are also abundant in our neighborhoods this time of year. DO NOT TOUCH THESE ANIMALS. I know they are cute, but they can and do carry rabies. If you find an injured or abandoned baby mammal, call Keeper of the Wild. They will tell you what to do.
Adult fox and raccoons are especially dangerous. Healthy adults that you may consider a nuisance can be handled by a wildlife removal service such as Wildlife Solutions. Injured animals should be handled by your local animal control or by Keeper of the Wild.
Baby squirrels and opossums are less dangerous to handle since they rarely carry rabies. However, adults bite, and they bite hard, so DON’T HANDLE ADULTS. If you find injured or abandoned squirrel or opossum babies, you can box them and bring them to a veterinary hospital that admits wildlife or call Keeper of the Wild for someone to pick them up. Pedialyte is a good solution to dropper feed these babies until a professional can take over. DO NOT use cow milk, soy milk, goat milk etc.
Baby deer and rabbits do not carry rabies. You can handle these if they are injured or abandoned, but watch for ticks! As soon as a baby bunny is fully furred and has his eyes open, he is on his own. He doesn’t need your help unless he is injured. They seem too small to be independent, but they are. Fawns are often left alone for long periods of time. Watch for the parents for up to 3 hours before you deem a fawn abandoned.
All raptors (hawks, owls, and vultures) are handled by the South Carolina Center for Birds of Prey. If you spot an injured raptor, Call 843-971-7474 to arrange for pick up. These birds of prey can be very dangerous, even if they are injured, so don’t handle them. You can carefully cover them with a blanket or towel while you wait for help from a professional.
Charleston has a good network of veterinarians and wildlife rehabilitators. Many veterinary clinics have volunteered to take in wildlife, treat injuries and illness, and then pass the animals to Keeper of the Wild. This organization, which works solely on donations, is in desperate need of funding if they are to continue their mission. They treat and re-locate animals as needed. They also have a center where amputees and disabled wildlife are housed and used for education.
Never feed wild mammals. This encourages them to live too close to humans. This endangers us by bringing rabies into our yards and neighborhoods and it endangers the animals by making them less afraid of human contact. These animals are more likely to be injured by humans, household pets and automobiles. Instead of feeding wild mammals consider making donations to the South Carolina Center for Birds of Prey (http://www.thecenterforbirdsofprey.org) or to Keeper of the Wild (keeperofthewild.org). Your contributions will help to keep our wildlife safe and healthy.