Wild Orphans: To Rescue Or Not?

“Mommy, look what I found!”

Children have a knack for finding wild orphans, whether they are baby birds, squirrels, bunnies, or other wild animals. Across the United States during the spring and summer months, thousands of young wild animals are picked up; some need to be rescued, but most do not.

“At Brukner Nature Center, we care for more than 1,400 animals each year,” said Becky Crow, Curator of Wildlife.  “They are brought to us by well-intentioned individuals, but many of them did not need to be rescued,” Crow added.

Baby bunnies, also known as kits, are one of the wild animals rescued most often but usually do not need human help.  Mother rabbits are only at the nest to feed their young twice daily for about five minutes—at dawn and dusk.  And, yes, they put the nest in the middle of your backyard!  One reason is that Mama Rabbit can see predators approaching while nursing her young.  Kits are in their nest for only two to three weeks, a pretty short time before they are independent.  Leave the nest alone unless you find cold, limp babies or injured ones.  Brukner Nature Center has more advice for you on keeping the young safe in the nest until they are ready to live independently.

There is a myth that once a baby bird is touched by a human, it will not be cared for by the parent birds.  Not true!  First, birds, except those in the vulture family, have a poor sense of smell.  They cannot even tell that you touched the nestling when returning it to the nest.  However, if you put a cold baby bird back in the nest and it cannot beg for food when the parent arrives, it is in trouble.  It is always best to call Brukner Nature Center for help and advice.

Did you know that mother deer forage for food, leaving their camouflaged, spotted fawns alone for several hours?  People who come across these vulnerable-looking fawns in the woods, their backyards, and roadways always assume they need help.  Unless the fawn is injured—broken leg, open wound, flies buzzing around it—it is most likely perfectly fine.  Its mom intends to return soon and expects to find the youngster right where she left it after the last feeding.

“It is illegal and unwise to keep wildlife as pets or even to try to raise orphans unless you are trained and have the proper permits from state and federal wildlife agencies,” said Crow. Licensed wildlife rehabilitators have the knowledge and experience to care for wild orphans who need help. They know how to raise orphans to be healthy and wild. When you find a wild animal you think needs help, it is best to call for advice so you and the wild animal remain safe.

In this area, you can call Brukner Nature Center at 937-698-6493. Please make certain the wild animal in question needs to be rescued. Even with Brukner Nature Center’s best efforts, there is no substitute for Mother Nature.

Brukner Nature Center is a non-profit, privately funded organization that promotes appreciation and understanding of wildlife conservation through preservation, education, and rehabilitation. For more information, call 937-698-6493, email info@bruknernaturecenter.com, or visit www.bruknernaturecenter.com.

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