A baby bird in the grass

If you have ever stumbled upon a baby wild animal all alone in the outdoors, you probably are familiar with that panicky feeling about what to do with it. Mother Nature often works best when left to her own devices, but it can be difficult to turn your back on a helpless animal in need.

The Pet Experts at Elmhurst Animal Care Center don’t regularly care for baby wildlife, however we do know how to get started helping and who to ask when things are serious. Please do not bring wildlife to Elmhurst Animal Care Center. 

When to Intervene

Wild animals, no matter how small and cute, are not the same as our household pets. Knowing how to assess the situation when you find an animal seemingly in need can help stop you from doing more harm than good. 

If the animal is obviously injured or sick, it is reasonable to try to intervene. This can be difficult to assess in a baby, however, as they may not yet be able to stand, walk, or respond to your presence.

When you find baby wildlife, you must first look at the species to decide how to proceed. For instance:

Baby bird – Birds do not always supervise their young. If you see a featherless bird on the ground, though, it is safe to say it needs help. Waterfowl like a gosling or duckling are typically not left alone, either. 

Baby rabbit – Mother rabbits only visit their nest twice a day (typically at night). Unless the baby is injured or is cold and lethargic with a flat belly, it is likely just fine. Bunnies with erect ears, open eyes, and who can hop may be on their own.

Baby raccoon – Racoons are another species that leave their young for long periods. If you find one that is alone, you can monitor to be sure its belly looks full and that mom returns to the den.

Baby opossum – Opossums do not leave their young alone – in fact baby opossums belong in their mother’s pouch. If you find one alone, it needs help.

Baby squirrel – Squirrels are another species that need little intervention. If a baby squirrel has been knocked from its nest, you can help try to reunite mom and baby.

How to Help Baby Wildlife

One you have determined that the baby wildlife you have found is in need of help, the next step is to contact a wildlife rehabilitator. While it may be fun to think about raising a baby on your own, it is important to know that it’s illegal to house wild animals for over 24 hours, and is not without risk. The baby’s best chance is with a licensed rehabilitator. 

We are extremely fortunate to have Willowbrook Wildlife Center close by. By calling these lovely folks, you can determine for sure if a wild animal needs help and what steps to take. Never handle an adult wild animal without professional advice! Please do not bring wildlife to Elmhurst Animal Care Center. 

The Next Steps

If the wildlife rehabilitator agrees that intervention is necessary, you may need to move the animal. Use gloves, long sleeves, and a thick towel to protect yourself. A small container like a box or even a plastic food container can work well. Baby mammals appreciate being able to hide under something like a towel while birds need non-slippery footing. 

It may be tempting to feed your baby wildlife, however doing so could result in aspiration so it is best to not. Most will not know how to drink from a cup of water, either. If you are trying to reunite mom and baby, they need to signal they are hungry so that they can be more easily found.

If you are transporting the animal, keep it in a quiet, warm, and dark place until it’s time to go. Transport as soon as possible and try to keep the drive quiet and stress-free. 

Always call before bringing wildlife to Willowbrook Wildlife Center or other wildlife rehabilitators to be sure that they can and will take your critter. 

Baby Wildlife in Need

We are all animal lovers and we know that baby wildlife in particular can pull at the heartstrings. Helping them can be a rewarding experience, but it is important to do it correctly for the best chances for the baby and for your own safety.