If You Care Leave it There

Humans are never a young animal's best hope for survival.  They are its last hope. A young animal should only be removed from the wild after all avenues to reunite it with an adult animal are exhausted.

Wild animals may carry the rabies virus or other diseases that can be transmitted to people.  Please do not handle these animals yourself and contact CROW or a local wildlife organization for assistance. 

Orphaned or Abducted

Wildlife parents are very devoted to the care of their young and rarely abandon them.  When abandonment does occur, it is usually the result of an injury or the death of the parent. Typically, it is the female mammal that raises the young and often leaves the nest in search of the next meal.  In the case of birds, where both parents are generally caretakers, both are often away from the nest for the majority of the day, returning only for the brief stops to feed their hungry young. 

What Can You Do?

If you happen to see a young, wild animal, please leave it alone unless there appears to be something wrong such as a clear injury or fallen nest. If the nest has fallen out of the tree but the young inside the nest appear healthy, please replace the nest in the tree as high up as you can reach. If this is not possible, consider placing the nest in nearby bushes or even nailing it to the side of the tree in an area where the young will have some shade and shelter from the elements.  If the nest itself is missing or damaged, an artificial nest may be created. If you find yourself in need of assistance in a scenario like this, please reach out to CROW or a licensed rehabilitator. We will always be happy to walk you through the steps needed over the phone to ensure the baby has the best chance of survival!

Common Scenarios  

Nestlings are birds not quite ready to leave their nests. Songbirds or birds of prey (hawks and owls) are usually covered with fluffy down and lack feathers. They are not yet able to perch.  These young birds must be placed back into their nests or new nests must be constructed for them.

Fledglings are when young birds leave the nest and feathers have replaced the down they wore as nestlings.  Fledglings leave their nest for short periods of time to hop along branches and often fall out of the trees.  If this occurs, observe the fledgling and please keep your pets indoors.  Watch from a distance to see if the young bird can get out of harm's way by itself and if the adult birds continue to care for it.  Usually, the adults will fly down to feed the fledglings who will fly on their own in a few days.

Bunnies such as eastern cottontail rabbits feed their young briefly once or twice a day at dawn or dusk. You will not find the female in her nest during the day because she is out foraging for food.  Rabbits leave the nest when they are just three weeks old, so even a seemingly small rabbit with its eyes open and ears standing up is self-sufficient and does not need your assistance.

Raccoon kits feed primarily at night.  Young raccoons scavenge with the female parents at two months of age and set off on their own in the fall. The female raccoon cares for the young in the preferred den sites of large, hollow trees in the woods.  They have a small terrritory, and nests are often easily located. Another common scenario for young raccoons is when the mother nests in a manmade structure such as your attic or crawl space and become a nuisance. If the need arises that a wildlife trapper removes the adult raccoon, please ensure that they also check for a den. If not found and removed with the mother, the hungry babies will often appear a few days later and end up at a wildlife rehabilitator.

Bobcat kittens generally nest in dens and and begin exploring their surroundings at four weeks of age.  The female bobcat stays in the den with the kittens while the male bobcat does not participate in raising the young.  If you happen to see a kitten(s) in a den, please leave them alone unless there is a clear injury.

Otter pups form strong family units with both parents participating in raising the pups. The pups begin exploring their surroundings at four weeks of age, but stay with the family for a year learning to hunt and avoid predators.  


In June 2020, CROW's Medical & Research Director, Dr. Heather Barron presented a "If You Care, Leave It There" webinar for the Lafeber Company. For a more in depth look at what to do if you find a baby bird or other animal,  you can watch the webinar here: