Baby Animal Help

June 2019

Fawn curled up in grassElizabeth-Schumann_800p.jpg

By Ranger Elizabeth

This time of year, many ani­mals have little mouths to feed. From time to time, young ani­mals get sep­a­rated from their parents. Most often, we find fawns hiding in the grass or baby birds that have fallen out of nests. A lot of us are quick to jump into action to help these poor little creatures by taking them in and trying to raise them. Unfortunately, we can be more harmful than helpful.

Remember, it is illegal for a person to trans­port certain animals that are high risk for transmitting rabies, including any live species of fox, skunk, coyote, or raccoon indig­e­nous or naturalized to North America.

Here’s what you can do if you find a fawn or baby bird.

Fawns

Deer will often hide their fawns at dawn and dusk while they go to feed, because a fawn cannot keep up with its mother’s pace. People come across fawns and take them away, believing they have been orphaned.

Never feed a fawn. They require a special diet and giving them the wrong food can cause sickness or death.

Never move a fawn unless it is in im­me­di­ate danger. Call your local wildlife reha­bil­i­tator, and make sure to let them know if the fawn appeared injured or was behaving strangely.

Baby birds

If you find a bird, try to intervene as little as possible. Parents will not abandon their babies if touched by humans, but your scent left on the bird may attract predators to it. The first step when you find a baby bird is to determine if it is a baby bird or if it is a fledgling.

Fledglings

Bird with scruffy feathers
Fledgling Carolina wren

Many fledglings will leave the nest a few days before they can fly, but their par­ents still care for them. Fledglings will have almost fully formed feathers, and the wings and tails may still be a bit short. They can fly short distances and do not need assistance.

If the bird is a fledgling, just move it to a sheltered location out of the sun that is nearby.

Hatchlings

A hatchling may be bald or only have a few tufts of feathers. They cannot fly and may not even have their eyes open.  

If the bird is a hatchling, try returning it to its nest. If the nest is destroyed, line a small basket with tissue or grass clippings and place it as close to the original nest as possible. Make sure the basket is secure so that the baby will not fall out. The par­ents will easily find their baby, but it may take them an hour or more to return.

Never feed a young bird. Again, they have their own special diet, and altering this can cause sickness or death.

If there is no way to return the baby, or the parents have been killed, call your local wildlife rehabilitator for advice.

It is illegal to keep wild birds in captivity, even if you intend to release them. The only birds not protected by any state or federal law are European starlings (Sturnus vulgaris), English sparrows (Passer do­mes­ticus), common pigeons (Columbia liva), and Eurasian collared-doves (Strep­to­pelia decaocto).

Wildlife Rehabilitators

Always call your local wildlife rehabilitator or animal control if you find an animal orphaned or injured.

Never try to help without the advice of an expert, because you may unintentionally harm the animal.

Here are some links to local wildlife rehabilitators: