Spring is an amazing time of year. The snow melts, the weather warms up, and we can finally get outside to soak up some sunshine. We begin to work in our yards, relax outside, or play a game of catch. But humans aren’t the only ones emerging after a long winter. Take a look around and you’ll see there is plenty of wildlife coming out of the woodwork – or woods, for that matter.
With humans spending more time outside, it’s likely that sooner or later, wild animals will cross our paths. Sometimes, those wild animals are babies, and sometimes, they look like they’ve been abandoned.
What should you do if you find a wild baby animal in your yard? For many of us, our first instinct is to help the baby animal. However, it’s important to know exactly how to help, because sometimes, helping is more harmful for the baby animal. Here is a list of commonly found baby wildlife and what to do:
Before you help a baby bird, it’s important to identify if it’s a hatchling, nestling, or fledgling. Hatchlings are featherless and still have their eyes closed; nestlings have some feathers starting to appear and their eyes are open. Both hatchlings and nestlings can usually be renested. However, if the baby bird is a little older, with feathers and the ability to perch, it is a fledgling. Fledglings leave the nest while they learn how to fly, and its parents continue to care for it on the ground until it learns to take care of itself. Therefore, if you see a fledgling, it is best to leave it be.
Ducks & Geese
Baby ducks and geese open their eyes a few days after hatching. Unlike other birds, they are able to walk, swim, and feed themselves at a very young age. As ducklings and goslings leave their nests, parents protect them for a period of time before they are ready to be on their own. If you think you see a duckling or gosling that is truly abandoned, your best bet is to call a local wildlife rescue.
Baby deer can spend hours away from its mother. A mother deer leaves her fawn alone for most of the day so she doesn’t attract any predators. Fawns blend in with vegetation, and instinctively stay still and quiet while their mothers are away. It’s best to leave fawns alone since their mothers will return.
Rabbits, like deer, often leave the nest so as to not attract predators. It is quite common for people to find what looks like an orphaned bunny nest, but it is best to leave it alone, as the mother should return during the night or early morning to nurse her babies. Believe it or not, baby bunnies, or kits, are capable of caring for themselves at only a few weeks old.
Baby reptiles are born completely capable of taking care of themselves. Most mother snakes in our region lay their eggs and then leave; once the babies hatch, they are on their own. Like snakes, mother turtles do not care for their babies. Baby turtles can instinctually find water, and do a good job of hiding from predators. If you find a baby turtle, either leave it alone, or move it to a nearby water source or underbrush.
When to Call for Backup
If you’re unsure about how to help a baby animal, it’s perfectly okay to ask for help. Other times, it’s more obvious that a baby animal needs human intervention. If the baby animal is clearly injured (think wounds or broken bones), get in contact with your local wildlife rescue. If you have seen the baby animal be caught or attacked by a pet or wild predator, you should also get in touch with a wildlife rescue. Lastly, if you know for sure that the parent has been killed, ask for help. There are many wildlife rescues in Rochester and the surrounding Monroe County. A great resource is the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation website. Simply choose your county and the type of animal, and you’re provided a list of wildlife rehabilitators in your area.
Most wildlife babies can fend for themselves, or have parents nearby to care for them. It’s important to note that wild animals, even when they are babies, do not make good household pets. Keep the animal’s best interest in mind, and ask for help when needed.