This time of year is often referred to as “baby season” by wildlife rehabilitators. All of the wild critters have either had or are having, their young and occasionally need a little help. Sometimes a baby bird falls out of the nest or there are other natural disturbances, however, the cause is often human interference, from destruction of habitat, taking down trees, and irresponsible land clearing. Sometimes our mammal, reptile, and feathered friends lose their parents to car strikes, window strikes, and even sadly intentional harm by humans.
Well-meaning people often make common errors with orphaned and injured wildlife, especially fawns and fledgling birds. I am going to give a few tips about finding orphaned and injured wildlife here, but it is difficult to go into the deeper context in one article, so please stay tuned for our wildlife talk coming up in June. In that program, we will talk in more detail about how to help injured and orphaned animals on the land, how to become a licensed rehabilitator, and also what to do when certain species clash with farming operations.
When you find an abandoned young bird or animal, the best thing for them is to get them back to their parents whenever possible. Survey the area for a nest or den and look for observing parents. If you see a fledgling bird, and if cats or dogs are in the area, try putting them up on a branch high enough to be out of reach from the other animals while you watch for returning parents.
It is not uncommon for a mother deer to stray a distance from her fawn. This is usually to feed herself or to keep her scent away from the babe to protect it from predation. Generally, they will always return to their fawn(s) around dusk but they will certainly stay away longer if you linger too close to the fawn. Give space and watch from afar, before you determine if they are orphaned. Again, watch for the parents before deciding the fawn is orphaned.
If you are certain the bird or animal is orphaned or injured then please seek help from a wildlife rehabilitator, as they generally have built relationships with wildlife veterinarians and other centers for wildlife care. Our instincts are often to immediately give water or what we “think” they are eating in the wild such as worms and insects, however, it is easy to accidentally cause baby birds or animals to aspirate by trying to force water. This is when fluid goes into their lungs and almost always kills them. It takes time and skill to understand the delicacy of these beings so I always recommend getting them to a wildlife rehabilitator or rehabilitation facility ASAP.
For more information please be on the lookout for our wildlife program in June, and while you're at it do check out our other exciting programs on our calendar such as Introduction to Bees (6/3) and our Summer Fungi and Forest Ecology Walk (6/10) coming up.
Note: Lynn has been a NY licensed rehabilitator for over 15 years and a licensed falconer since 2009