Spring is here and with it comes baby wildlife season. As spring progresses, the chance of encountering newborn animals in our backyards or neighborhoods increases. The National Wildlife Federation, home to wildlife ambassador Ranger Rick raccoon, provides the whole family with a primer on what to do (and not do) when you cross paths with baby wildlife in your neighborhood—from a baby bird fallen from its nest, to a lone deer fawn in your backyard.
Locate a Wildlife Rehabilitator in Your Area
Ranger Rick and the National Wildlife Federation recommend researching wildlife rehabilitation facilities in your area and posting the phone number(s) somewhere they can easily be located. If you’re unable to locate a rehabilitator directly, contact a local animal shelter, humane society, animal control agency, nature center, state wildlife agency, or veterinarian for advice.
Determine if the Animal Really Needs Help
Remember, in many cases it’s totally normal for wildlife babies to be on their own. The exception is if an animal is injured as the direct result of human activity, such as getting hit by a car, attacked by a pet, striking a window, or falling from a nest during tree work. Or if you’ve witnessed its parent being killed and know for sure that it is orphaned.
Wait and Observe
Baby birds, rabbits, and deer are some of the most common wildlife in our yards and neighborhoods. If you encounter one of these wildlife babies who appear to be unharmed but alone, just observe from a distance and keep domestic animals and people away. Chances are quite likely the mother will be back shortly. In many cases, “rescuing” fledgling birds, baby deer, and rabbits by removing them from the wild is unnecessary and reduces their chances of survival.
If you find a baby squirrel on the ground with its eyes closed or it can’t move, it’s too young to be away from the mother or is injured. Contact a wildlife rehabilitator immediately and do not try to feed or raise it yourself. Baby squirrels require special care and must be fed a specific formula every few hours around the clock.
Learn About Your Local Wildlife
Keep a list of the local wildlife families you see on a regular basis and do research to learn about their behavior and habits. This will help you determine if an animal needs help or if they should be left alone. It’s also a great way to get to know the amazing wildlife that share our outdoor spaces!
Approaching or Moving an Injured Animal
Rescuing any wild animal is best left to trained professionals. Always call your local wildlife rehabilitator first if you encounter an injured animal. They can advise you on what actions to take. And remember, only adults in the family should attempt to approach or move injured wildlife.
Never Try to Make Wildlife into Pets
While it may be tempting to keep a wild animal, especially one you’ve helped, they are meant to live wild and free. In fact, there are laws to protect many species from being taken out of the wild by people.
For more information about how to help wildlife, visit nwf.org.