Unless the animal appears injured or in distress, there may be no need to rescue them! Please call us at (352) 621-5575 as soon as possible so we can help you determine the status of the animal.
If the animal needs rescuing, please follow these TEMPORARY care instructions:
It’s common to see baby wild animals outside during spring, as a new generation makes its way into the world. Determining whether an animal is an orphan and needs your help depends upon the animal’s age, species, and natural behaviors. See below to find out when and how you should help a baby wild animal.
A squirrel who is nearly full-sized, has a full and fluffy tail, and is able to run, jump, and climb is independent. However, if a squirrel nest falls or a younger baby squirrel falls from a nest, you may need to intervene. If you don’t think the babies fell from the tree today, or if they appear injured, immediately contact a wildlife rehabilitator.
If you are certain the baby squirrels fell from the tree today, give the mother squirrel a chance to reclaim her young. If the baby is uninjured, leave him where he is, leave the area, keep people and pets away, and monitor him from a safe distance.
If it’s chilly outside, or the baby isn’t fully furred, place him in a shallow box with something warm underneath (like a heating pad on a low setting or a hot water bottle). Do not cover him with leaves or blankets, as the mother may not be able to find him. If the babies are not retrieved within a few hours, take these steps to warm them.
Wearing thick gloves, gather the squirrels and place them inside a thick, soft cloth, such as a cloth diaper or fleece scarf or hat.
Provide immediate warmth by placing one of the following beneath the cloth: chemical hand warmers, a hot water bottle (replace the hot water every 30 minutes), or a heating pad set on the lowest setting. (If the heating pad has no cover, put it inside a pillow case.)
Place the baby squirrels, cloth, and warmer inside a small cardboard box. Call a wildlife rehabilitator. You can also try calling your local humane society. Many shelters and humane societies can provide emergency care for wildlife.
Baby opossums are born as embryos, barely larger than a bee, and spend about two months nursing within their mother’s pouch. When they get to be about 3-4 inches long and start riding around on her back, they may fall off without her noticing. As a general rule, if an opossum found alone is over 7 inches long (not including the tail), he’s old enough to be on his own; if less than 7 inches long (not including the tail), he is an orphan, and you should contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator.
A rabbit who is four inches long with open eyes and erect ears is independent from his mother and should be allowed to fend for himself. Uninjured baby rabbits in a nest that is intact should also be left alone. Mother rabbits only visit their dependent young to nurse them 2-3 times a day to avoid attracting predators.
If the rabbit nest has been disturbed, though, or if you think the babies are orphaned, cover the nest with surrounding natural materials such as grass and leaves, and follow these steps.
If a baby raccoon has been seen alone for more than a few hours, he is probably an orphan, because mother raccoons closely supervise their young and don’t let them out of their sight. You can put an upside-down laundry basket over the baby (with a light weight on top so he cannot push his way out) and monitor him for a few hours. If the mother does not return, contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator.
If you see a baby skunk—or a line of baby skunks, nose-to-tail—running around without a mother in sight, he (or they) may be orphaned. Skunks have poor eyesight, so if something scares a mother skunk and she runs off, her babies can quickly lose sight of her.
Monitor the situation for an hour or two to see if the mother rejoins her young. You can also put on gloves and slowly place a plastic laundry basket upside down over the baby skunks to keep them in one spot and make it easier for the mother to find them.
If the mother returns to her young and you need to lift the basket to let them out, remember that moving quickly may frighten them, causing them to use their spray defense. If you move slowly and speak softly, though, it’s unlikely that you will be sprayed. If she does not stamp her front feet to show that she is alarmed, you should be safe to proceed. If no mother comes to retrieve her young, contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator.
People often mistakenly assume that a fawn (baby deer) found alone is orphaned. If the fawn is lying down calmly and quietly, his mother is nearby and he is OK. A doe only visits and nurses her fawn a few times a day to avoid attracting predators. Unless you know that the mother is dead, leave the fawn alone.
Although mother deer are wary of human smells, they still want their babies back. If you already handled the fawn, quickly return the fawn to the exact spot where you found him and leave the area; the mother deer will not show herself until you are gone.
If the fawn is lying on his side or wandering and crying incessantly all day, he probably needs help. If this is the case, contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator.
Often fox kits will appear unsupervised for long periods of time while their parents are out hunting for food. Observe the kits from a distance; if they seem energetic and healthy, leave them alone. If they appear sickly or weak, or if you have reason to believe both parents are dead, contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator.
WHEN YOU’RE SURE THE ANIMAL NEEDS HELP
Once you’re sure the animal needs your help, call a wildlife rehabilitator for assistance. If you’re unable to locate a rehabilitator, try contacting one of the following:
Once you’ve contacted someone who can help, describe the animal and his physical condition as accurately as possible. Unless you are told otherwise, here’s how you can make an animal more comfortable for transport or while you’re waiting for help to arrive: