Wild parents are always a wild baby’s best chance of survival. It is so important to exhaust all efforts to reunite displaced babies with their natural mother. Wild parents teach babies everything from hunting to the songs of their species and how to survive. Species to species interaction is what helps wild animals discover their role in the ecosystem. Rehabilitating wildlife is not just feeding them up until release, a release is not successful unless that animal can survive on their own in the wild. One of the most important reasons for reunification or rehabilitation with a certified wildlife rehabber is because wildlife will imprint and become habituated to humans, even just hearing human voices, can lead to a failure of raising a releasable baby.
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 transmittable to humans. Please do not handle these animals yourself and contact CROW or a local wildlife organization for assistance. Rabies vector animals include raccoons, river otters, foxes, skunks, bats, coyotes, and bobcats. A rabies vector species is a species more likely to contract the rabies virus, seeing one of these animals DOES NOT mean they have the rabies virus.
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 raising 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. NEVER feed any wild animal. It is illegal in the state of Florida to care for wildlife without the proper licenses and permits. If the animal is injured, ALWAYS bring them to your nearest wildlife rehabber for proper care. 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.
Some species need cavity nests if theirs has been destroyed or the tree was cut down like screech owls, woodpeckers, and squirrel species. People can use the tree with the cavity that’s fallen or cut down and attach it to a nearby tree so parents can keep using it. Or contact us and we can provide a nest box, so unharmed babies don’t have to come into the clinic.
Some birds like nighthawks, vultures, killdeer, and Chuck-will’s-widows are ground nesters. If you find a baby of these species, PLEASE LEAVE THEM BE! These species are nearly impossible to renest and struggle in rehabilitation settings.
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!
Watch the Webinar
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, watch the webinar here: