Just because an animal appears alone doesn’t mean it needs human help.
With spring slowly arriving, it’s time to keep an eye out for young wildlife emerging. Citizens have the instinct to help any injured or abandoned animal but there are some pointers to keep in mind depending on the species, age, behavior, and incident.
Never handle an adult animal without first consulting a wildlife professional. Even small animals can injure you.
If you’re unsure whether an animal needs help, contact the Teton Wildlife Rehabilitation Center. Please be prepared to describe the animal and its physical condition as accurately as possible.
Signs that an animal may require your help include:
• if the animal is brought to you by a cat or dog
• there’s evidence of bleeding
• the animal has an apparent or obvious broken limb
• a bird is featherless or nearly featherless and on the ground
• the animal is shivering
• you observe the dead parent nearby
• the animal is crying and wandering for a day or more
The Teton Wildlife Rehabilitation Center is providing the following suggestions for our most common species if you discover an animal that looks like they require assistance:
If baby birds are clearly injured or in imminent danger, contact TWRC immediately. If featherless or nearly featherless babies have fallen from their nest but appear unharmed, return them to their nest if you can do so without danger to yourself. It is a myth that birds will abandon their young if a person touches them. If you find fully feathered birds, it typically means the original nest was destroyed or is too high to reach. Hang a small, shallow wicker basket close
to where the original nest was. Put the fallen babies into the new nest and keep watch from a distance to make sure the parent birds return to the new nest to feed their chicks.
Watch closely, because parent birds can be quite stealthy. If they do not return, contact TWRC.
For rabbits, young that are at least four inches long with open eyes and erect ears who hop well are independent of their mother and should be allowed to fend for themselves. Uninjured baby rabbits in an intact nest should also be left alone. Although they may appear abandoned because a parent isn’t observed, mother rabbits visit their dependent young only a few times a day to avoid attracting predators.
If the nest has been disturbed, lightly cover it with natural materials you find around the nest, like grass, fur, or leaves. With baby rabbits, take care to make sure pets are kept out of the nest area. Do not touch baby rabbits because foreign smells might cause the mother to abandon the young.
A nearly full-sized squirrel that has a full and fluffy tail and can run, jump, and climb is independent. However, if a juvenile squirrel continuously approaches and follows people, it is likely abandoned. In this case, call TWRC immediately because the baby is very hungry and needs care.
Do not assume that a baby deer by itself has been abandoned. If the fawn is lying down calmly and quietly, the mother is nearby. A doe will only visit and nurse their fawn a few times a day to avoid attracting predators. Unless you know that the mother is dead, leave the fawn alone. If the fawn is lying on their side, wandering and crying incessantly, they most likely need help, contact TWRC.
Fox kits often appear unsupervised for long periods while parents are hunting for food. They will play like puppies near the den site until the parents take them hunting. Then they will suddenly disappear. Observe the kits from a distance; if they seem energetic and healthy, leave them alone. If they appear sickly or weak, or if you believe both parents are dead, contact TWRC.
If you encounter a baby animal and aren’t sure whether or not you should intervene, please feel free to contact Renee Seidler at 435-760-7267. Learn more about TWRC at www.tetonwildlife.org.