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What You Should (and Should Not) Do When You Come Across Young Wildlife

By: Lauren Crossed, Wildlife Program Manager

Spring is the time of year when animals are out and about, reproducing, raising their newborn babies and foraging on the blooms and fresh greens the season brings. It is during this time that our paths are most likely to cross with our wild neighbors. With that, the number of calls the Humane Rescue Alliance receives about wild animals will surely increase.

Have you ever stumbled upon a lone baby bird or squirrel and been unsure what you should do to help him or her? The initial response is generally to scoop up the animal and rush them to HRA or a local wildlife rehabilitation center, but that may not be in the best interest of the baby.

Raising young in the wild looks much different than humans raising their young, and so we sometimes misunderstand natural processes taking place in front of us. Some animals leave their young all day while they forage and produce milk.

wildlife

This is the safest option for baby wildlife who may not be able to keep up with mom or who could become easy prey for other animals because they are not yet developed enough to outrun them. So, they have evolved to stay put until mom has gotten her fill of food and returns for them. At HRA, we see these animals come in as abandoned orphans, when in reality, well-meaning people have unnecessarily removed them from their parents' care.

Though wildlife rehabilitation centers do an excellent job at caring for baby animals who are truly orphaned, wild animals have the best chance for a happy, healthy life with their natural parents. Humans could never raise a wild bird, deer, rabbit or any other wild animal as well as a member of the same species. They require species-specific diets that we can only try to mimic in a captive setting. Just the same as human babies, wildlife learns a great deal about how to become a successful member of their species from behaviors and teachings mom and dad provide.

wildlife

If you find yourself in the presence of a baby wild animal and you are unsure what to do, always call a professional before attempting to handle the baby. Never feed a wild animal or offer water. If the baby has flies around it, blood is seen or the baby is not able to stand or is cold to the touch, then chances are the baby needs human intervention.

If you’re in the District, the Humane Rescue Alliance is available 24/7 at 202-723-5730 to respond to animals in need. 

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