Wildlife     { Orphans }

I Found a Baby Bird (PDF)                I Found a Baby Mammal (PDF)

Click HERE if you would like more information from the Living with Wildlife in Illinois website.

Or you can click HERE for more information from the Wisconsin Humane Society website

Before rescuing any wild orphan, make sure it really is one. More the 75% of such orphans “rescued” every spring should have been left alone.

For example, a doe will leave her fawn for several hours while she forages. What the rescuer sees is helpless-looking, cute-as-a-button “orphan” that desperately needs to be taken home. And that is what happens many times. If the rescuer doesn’t call a rehabber or some other informed person, in a few days, that cute fawn is a sick fawn with diarrhea, no appetite, and generally failing health. Then it may be too late.

Cottontail bunnies are born naked and blind. Within one week, their eyes open and by two weeks they are fairly active. At three weeks, while only five to six inches long, they’re on their own. Only if a bunny is bleeding, cold and limp, or obviously hurt should it be rescued. If you have to chase them to catch them, please leave them alone!

Opossum babies do most of their growing in the pouch. North America’s only marsupial, the opossum gives birth to as many as 17 babies after a brief 13-day gestation period. The neonates crawl up the mother’s abdomen, into her pouch and attach themselves to a nipple for two months. Their first few weeks out of the pouch they travel onthe mother, clinging to her fur. At about six to eight inches from nose tip to tail base, they are able to be on their own. If they are smaller than this and alone, injured, cold or limp, they need help.

Some myths perpetuate the rescuing of wild babies. Touch a baby bird and the parent will abandon it. This unfortunate piece of misinformation has been responsible for breaking up countless bird families. Baby birds CAN be returned to the nest if they are uninjured and warm and fallen nests CAN be put back in the tree. Baby birds can even be put in new nests as long as the parents know where it is. So, now that you know what an orphan is, if you find one, what do you do? Think of what would make YOU feel best. Quiet and warmth comes first.

The best way to ensure your orphan’s long life is to get it to the nearest wildlife center. This one easy step is the best thing you can do for “your” baby and will probably triple its chances for survival. If you are unable to get instructions from a rehabber immediately, use common sense.

Most orphans are slightly to severely hypothermic (cold) and dehydrated (thirsty). Before doing anything else, that baby needs to be warm. Heating pads are great as long as the baby is not placed directly on them. The heating pad should be placed underneath a portion of a box padded with clean, blankets (no holes or loose threads). By doing this, the animal is given the option of moving away from the heat if it gets too warm. Check for overheating yourself, though, especially if the baby is very weak.

Most wild animals (furred - 102°, feathered - 110°) have a body temperature higher than ours and should feel warm to the touch. The exception is the opossum with a normal body temp of 91°. The orphan needs to be close to normal temperature before any rehydration is attempted.

Birds don’t drink milk and bunnies don’t eat bologna! Don’t laugh. Believe it or not, people do this. You can make a homemade rehydrating solution by mixing a small amount of honey and salt with warm water (One cup warm water, one teaspoon honey and one-fourth teaspoon salt).

A newborn can die if it aspirates (inhales) fluids. Get a tiny plastic eyedropper, hold the baby upright, and gently nudge the dropper into the mouth. Use very little pressure and make sure the baby is swallowing before going any further. They will rarely drink too much. If any solution starts coming out of the nose, stop immediately, hold baby upside down allowing the fluid to drain, and let recover. Wait awhile before trying again.

This should be the extent of your emergency treatment. Take the orphan to a rehabber, call back and check on it, and, if possible, leave a donation to help with the cost of raising “your” orphan.

twitter facebook google plus