Animal in Distress?
Read our help guide!
The Hospital receives numerous inquiries each day from people who have found baby birds or other animals that seem to need help. In order to decide just what sort of help is appropriate, it is important to understand both the situation and the realities of intervention.
Most babies should be left alone, for many good reasons. On the other hand, truly sick, injured, orphaned animals may benefit greatly from your help - and from ours! Our Hospital has treated more than 40,000 wild animal patients since it was founded.
Call us and we will walk you through an analysis of the situation. If necessary we will suggest means of capture, confinement, and transportation. And if you are too far away to bring the animal here, we will help you locate a rehabilitator in your state or area
Babies or Orphans
Very young babies are sometimes dislodged from their nests by storms or other interferences. Hairless (or featherless) babies with eyes closed should be replaced into their nest if possible. If you cannot locate the nest, put birds or squirrels in a wicker basket with some dry leaves and hang it in a nearby bush or tree. Other animals can be placed in a basket or shallow box on the ground in a shaded spot. Once this is done, be sure to leave the area; Mom will not approach with you nearby.
Do not worry--the old tale about a mother animal not accepting her baby back after it has been touched by a human is not true; most birds have no sense of smell. Once a young animal can move around, it begins to explore its surroundings. This clumsy time for young birds is called the "brancher" stage. These and other young animals frequently fall from their lofty perches, sometimes ending up in our yards or porches. The parents will continue to care for the young even on the ground, so it is usually best to simply leave such youngsters alone if they are safe from other predators, and domestic pets such as cats and dogs.
While this is indeed a dangerous time for babies, it is also an important step in their development. Baby birds do not need to "learn" to fly; instead, they must develop the necessary physical maturity and strength. The exercise they get hopping and fluttering from place to place serves this end. Babies do though need to learn what food looks, smells and tastes like in the wild, as well as normal behaviors that they will need to know for interacting with other animals. After all, once Mom stops feeding them, such knowledge is critical. Babies also learn to avoid predators and take shelter from the elements by noting the reactions of their parents. These lessons are clearly very important to the future survival of the youngsters.
Trying to raise a baby bird or other animal yourself may seem like a great idea at first, but it is much more complicated than you may think. Each species requires a different diet and feeding regimen to ensure proper development. In the wild, animals are adapted to these different diets and schedules to allow them to coexist without competition from other types of animals. These conditions must be duplicated, or the babies will not thrive. In addition, babies can become imprinted onto humans all too easily. This only creates a confused animal that will be unable to relate to others of its own kind when released back into the wild.
If you find a baby animal and are truly unable to reunite it with its parents, please take the time to bring the orphan here or to another wildlife care facility near you. There it will receive the proper diet and be raised with others of its own kind, so it can become a successful wild animal. A darkened cardboard box is perfectly acceptable accommodation for the trip. While in your care, please do NOT feed or force water upon the animal regardless of their state (this includes situations of cold stun). Home concoctions such as sugar water, bread and milk, and peanut butter are inappropriate and will harm the baby! Giving the wrong diet is far worse than giving no diet at all!
The first consideration must be your own safety. Sick or injured animals do not understand your good intentions, and will defend themselves vigorously. This is true even of animals in grave condition; teeth, beaks, and talons remain functional to the end.
Do not attempt to touch or rescue possible rabies carriers, or animals whose size or whose defensive equipment may cause you injury. For a full list of rabies carriers please follow this link. Always call TCWH or your local Animal Control agency for advice and help.
Most small animals can be picked up using a towel and a cardboard box. Drop the towel over the animal. Once unable to see, the animal should become calmer and easier to handle. Then pick up towel and animal together and place into a box or other container. Do NOT attempt to remove the towel; the animal will become frightened once again, and both you and the animal will be at risk.
Keep the container in a dark, quiet place. Do NOT attempt to feed it, although water may be offered but never forced. Incorrect diets are dangerous to wild animals. Also, medical examination will be facilitated if the animal has an empty stomach.
Bring the patient back to Treasure Coast Wildlife Center during receiving hours, or to a qualified Wildllife Rehabilitator near you. Note that most patients will not be harmed by an overnight wait.