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"Not to hurt our humble brethren is our first duty to them, but to stop there is not enough.

We have a higher mission – to be of service to them wherever they require it."

-St. Francis of Assisi


Wild Life Saving Tips


Each year across the U.S., thousands of “orphaned” wild birds and mammals are rescued by well-meaning people when they didn’t need to be rescued at all.  The guidelines below will help you decide if a rescue is even necessary. And if it is, how to make sure it’s a success.


How to Rescue a Bird or Mammal

How to Prepare A Protective Container

Rescue DON'Ts

About Cat Bites

Important Reminders

Birds Fawns Rabbits
Squirrels Opossums Other Wildlife


How to Rescue a Bird or Mammal

First, wear gloves, if possible – animals may bite or scratch to protect themselves. Also, wild animals commonly have parasites, like fleas, ticks or lice, and can carry disease.


To capture a small, immobile bird, approach it slowly with some paper towels or a soft cloth and gently pick it up. Then, carefully place the bird in your protective container.


Approach larger birds and other immobile animals with a blanket and gently cover the entire animal to keep it quiet.  Carefully lift the creature and place it in a covered protective box or animal carrier.  Place the box in a warm, dark, quiet place and keep children and pets away. Do not handle or bother the creature – stress kills!


Wash your hands to prevent the spread of disease or parasites to you or your pets.  Don’t give the creature food or water – milk is especially deadly!  Get the bird or mammal to Wildlife Rescue as soon as possible. Timing is crucial!


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How to Prepare Your Protective Container

1. Punch air holes into the top of a cardboard box large enough to hold the creature (but small enough that it cannot run or fly around inside and injure itself even further).


2. Line the bottom of the box with paper towels, a soft cloth or toilet tissue.


3. Keep orphaned babies and injured animals warm. If possible, put a hot water bottle, closed tightly to avoid leakage and wrapped in a towel, in another part of the box, to avoid direct contact with the creature. (You may also use double zip-lock plastic bags filled with warm water and covered with a cloth - use 2 in case one leaks!)


4. Once the creature is in the box, securely tape or rubber band the container shut.


5. Bring the bird or mammal to Wildlife Rescue right away!


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Rescue DON'Ts

Often knowing what not to do is just as important as knowing what to do. Here are a few things you should NEVER do:

• DON’T give water or food (including milk, which is especially deadly!) to an injured or orphaned animal.


• DON’T leave pets or children outside when a fledgling is on the ground.


• DON’T cut a tree down without looking to see if there’s a squirrel or bird’s nest.


• DON’T allow pets or children to disturb a rabbit’s nest.


• DON’T keep a wild animal as a pet.


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About Cat Bites . . .

If you suspect that an animal has been caught or bitten by a cat – even if no puncture wounds are visible – the creature must be put on antibiotics right away. Bacteria in a cat’s saliva will cause infection, and, if untreated, the animal will die. Contact Wildlife Rescue or your vet immediately.


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Important Reminders

• It’s always best to leave what you may think is an “orphaned” animal alone unless it is in obvious distress or in an unsafe location.  Quite often, its parents are close by and reluctant to return because you are there. Watch for their return from a safe distance.


• Generally, if no parent returns within one to two hours, you should call Wildlife Rescue or begin preparing your protective container.  An exception to this rule is a nest of baby bunnies – see Rabbits article to learn how to check for Mom’s return.


• Call a wildlife rehabilitator for assistance before rescuing any animal. This is especially important with the rescue of a wild creature of any size or strength. Trained wildlife rehabilitators will wear the protective gear needed to attempt the rescue – sturdy gloves, long sleeves, boots, and safety glasses.


• Remember, the possibility of exposure to rabies always exists. You must protect yourself and your pet from any contact with a wild animal's saliva and other body fluids.


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Baby Birds

It’s a myth that the parents of a wild bird will reject a baby touched by human hands. The fact is birds have almost no sense of smell.


Baby birds that have fallen from their nest should be returned, as long as the nest can be safely reached.  If the nest cannot be reached, place the baby bird in a substitute nest close by. A small margarine tub or berry basket lined with dry grass can work nicely. Now, from a distance, watch to see if the parent comes back to take care of baby.


Young birds with feathers (fledglings) spend time on the ground while learning to fly. This is a normal part of their development. A fledgling should only be removed if it is in imminent danger, e.g., the baby bird is too close to a roadway or there is a free-roaming cat in the area.


Baby birds that cannot be returned to their nest, and those in danger, should be placed in a small box (with air holes) and taken to Wildlife Rescue as soon as possible.


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Baby Squirrels

If you find a squirrel’s nest on your lawn after a storm, or encounter infants lying on the ground, place them near the tree they fell from and watch from inside your home if Mom returns to rescue her babies.


Typically, Mom will build a new nest, which can take an hour or more, and come back for her youngsters. If she doesn’t return or the infants are cold, covered with flies or ants, or appear injured, you should call Wildlife Rescue right away or bring them to us.


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Baby Bunnies


If you see a rabbit’s nest that has been disturbed, do not touch the babies. After wiping your hands on the grass, carefully replace the fur and other nest material.  Place two small twigs across the nest in an “X” or other pattern the mother will disturb when she comes back (sprinkling flour around the nest will also work – you will see Mom’s footprints if she returns). Stay away until morning. Mom will only return to the nest at dusk and dawn.


If the twigs (or flour) are not disturbed in 24 hours, or if the babies have been injured or moved from the nest by a cat, dog or lawn mower, bring the babies to Wildlife Rescue right away.


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Baby Opossums


Typically, baby opossums are born during March and April and then again in July. Mom carries her little darlings in her pouch while she forages for food at night or sleeps during the day.


If you see an adult opossum that has been killed on the road (and can pull over safely), check for babies in her pouch. Our volunteers routinely raise baby opossums that survive car accidents. 


If you find a “kitten size” (or smaller) opossum, rest assured, it’s an orphan that needs rescuing!


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Fearing her scent may attract predators, a mother deer leaves her fawn alone most of the day.


If you encounter a fawn lying quietly by itself and it looks healthy – leave it alone! If you have any doubts, call the nearest wildlife rehabilitator for advice.


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Other Wildlife

If you see other wild animals in distress, especially creatures of size or strength, as well as mammals that are classified as rabies vector species, such as raccoons and foxes, call Wildlife Rescue immediately for assistance. Only a State-licensed and specially trained wildlife rehabilitator should handle these animals.


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