A young animal’s best chance for surviving is with its parents. The first thing to do if you see a baby animal is to step away. You can assess the young animal from a distance. Many young animals appear to be abandoned. Oftentimes, their mother has not abandoned the young, but limits the number of visits to the nesting area to prevent predators from discovering its location. Humans are considered a predator and the parents will stay away while we are in the area. If the young look content and quiet, they are probably being well cared for and should be left alone. The following information is about the different nesting habits of common animals we find in this area and what we should look for and do to help them.
Rabbits will have their young in small indentations in the lawn or garden. The nest is barely noticeable and is covered with only dried grass or leaves. Many times this can even be in a yard with a pet dog. Young rabbits do not have a scent and the mother leaves them alone most of the day, returning to the nest only two to three times daily to nurse them. If you happen to find the nest and the babies are resting comfortably, just cover the nest and leave the area. If you are worried about not seeing the mother, you can put a few pieces of colored sting on top of the nest in a pattern. When the mother returns to the nest she will disturb the pattern and you can be assured she is attending the young. The best way to help them is to avoid mowing the lawn in that area and to keep cats inside. If you have a dog, leash walk it until the young rabbits are old enough to move. Young rabbits are very quick to mature, and are on their own three weeks after they are born. They are only about the size of tennis balls when they eating on their own. If the babies are injured or you know the mother is dead, place them in a box with towels and a warm water bottle and keep them in a quiet location. You must wear glove or use a paper towel or cloth to handle the babies. You should never handle wildlife with bare hands. You will need to get them to a licensed rehabilitator as soon as possible. Information on finding a wildlife rehabilitator is listed below.
White-tail deer also leave their fawns alone. A young fawn will be left curled up just off a path, in a field, even near a road. If you see a young fawn alone, leave it and move out of the area. The mother will not return while you are in the area. Though it is a very vulnerable time and many fawns are in locations far from what we would consider ideal, the best chance for its survival is to be left alone so the mother can return and care for it. If you know that the mother is dead or the fawn is injured, call Mass Wildlife at 508-366-4470 for information on what can be done. Do not handle the fawn.
Baby squirrels are sometimes found on the ground after falling from their nest. If they are not injured they can be placed in a low box or low wicker basket and placed close to the area the nest is in. This will keep them safer from predators. You can put a cloth or dried grass in the box and a warm water bottle to keep them comfortable until their mother retrieves them. Baby squirrels are sometimes separated from their mother when a tree is cut down or the nest is disrupted. Place the young in a low box or basket near where the nest was. The mother will not reject them because they smell like humans. The mother squirrel will not return to the area while people or pets are around. Young squirrels that have just come out of the nest are sometimes very curious and unafraid; they should be left alone and not fed. If the young are injured or you know the mother is dead, you may need to rescue the young squirrels. Wear gloves to protect yourself from bites or scratches. Cover the squirrel with a small towel to pick it up. Place the squirrel in a pet carrier or cardboard box with holes in it and a tight-fitting lid and call a wildlife rehabilitator.
Raccoon and Skunks
Raccoon and skunks are also commonly found alone. One common mistake is to find the young alone in a chimney or outbuilding and remove them. The mother is usually in the area out looking for food and will return. The best solution is to leave them alone and close off the area after they move on. Raccoons and skunks can transmit diseases such as rabies and Balyisascaris (a round worm parasite) that can be fatal to humans. Even if the young look healthy there is no way to test for rabies without euthanizing them, so for their well being and your own, do not handle them. Tufts Wildlife Clinic does not handle raccoons or skunks, but if you have any questions regarding raccoon or skunks, please call the clinic at 508-839-7918.
Find a Wildlife Rehabilitator
To find a wildlife rehabilitator in your area, call Tufts Wildlife Clinic at 508-839-7918. The clinic is open Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Tufts Wildlife Clinic does not rehabilitate orphaned wildlife; we are only available to handle sick and injured wildlife. Mass Wildlife has a list of licensed wildlife rehabilitators on their web site or you can call Mass Wildlife at 617-626-1575.