May 20 Wildlife
A few weeks ago, we complained about the cold weather and in a few weeks we will be complaining about the hot weather. For now, the temperatures are generally pleasant and that means the animal kingdom is busy having babies. Chances are, many of you will come into contact with baby wildlife. Federal and state laws prohibit individuals from possessing wild animals, and Virginia requires wildlife rehabilitators to be trained and licensed. We strongly encourage people to bring orphaned wildlife to the shelter. We care for them until we can take them to a wildlife rehabilitator.
It is easy to assume that baby animals are orphans if they are seen with no adult nearby. However, many animal mothers leave their babies for varying stretches of time to forage for food.
Many deer picked up as orphans are not really orphans. A doe will leave her young ones hiding in the grass while she grazes. The fawns will not move at any approach. The best thing to do for the fawns is to remember where you spotted them, leave without touching them and return in an hour or so. The chances are the doe will have moved her babies. If the fawns are still there and are making peeping noises indicating distress, help is probably needed.
It is common to see baby birds on the ground. Fledglings (birds that are learning to fly) may simply be disoriented for a time and the mother will stay within close range and continue to feed her baby. Hatchlings (recently hatched birds) may have fallen from the nest. Gently place the hatchling back in the nest, if you can locate it in the tree. However, do so cautiously as you may frighten the nest mates and cause them to fall out of the nest. If you cannot locate the nest, try attaching a box to a tree where the parents can find their wayward baby and continue feeding it themselves. Continue to monitor the situation to keep the fledgling safe from other animals. If you determine the bird really is an orphan, bring it to us as soon as you can.
A rabbit’s nest may be disturbed or destroyed by lawn mowers, simple gardening, or other animals. The mother will probably have been frightened away. Restore the nest as much as possible to its natural condition, and keep a close watch to see if the mother returns. Place leaves or grass over the nest in a way that will indicate if the nest has been disturbed by the mother returning. If after a couple of hours, the mother has not returned, keep the bunnies warm and bring them to us.
Squirrels blown out of nests or hurt by cats have a good chance of surviving if they are brought to us as quickly as possible. It is nearly impossible to return them to the proper nest.
If the wild animal babies have their eyes open, they are going to be frightened. Eyes that look directly forward, as human eyes do, are generally recognized in nature as the mark of a predator and are likely to cause fear and panic. As you are helping the orphans, do not look directly at them.
The ultimate goal in helping orphaned or injured wildlife is to nurse them to health, and release them to lead a natural life in the wild. The babies may lose their fear of humans – a fatal affliction for any wild animal. It is better to have as little contact with them as possible and bring them to the animal shelter as soon as you can. We have a licensed wildlife rehabilitator who helps us save the lives of many wild animals.