Determining whether an animal is orphaned and needs your help depends on age, species and behavior. Babies of some species are left alone all day and rely on camouflage for protection, while others are tightly supervised by their parent(s). Read on for descriptions of what’s normal for each species.
Wild souls serves the Eastern Jackson County of Missouri. We do rescue. We will take in the mammal. Wild souls will give it the best professional care with the goal to release it back into its natural habitat where it belongs. 800.495.8403
Bi State Wildlife Hotline 1.855.WILD-HELP
24 hour Wildlife hotline
Animalhelpnow.org Is the resource to locate your nearest wildlife rehabber. Download the app today!
Wild Souls receives NO government funding, organizations like us rely on donations for us to continue providing our services. We appreciate your conviction and love for wildlife. Please DO NOT give a wild animal food or drink or try to raise it yourself, depending on your area that could be illegal and you can face a fine and the animal can face euthanasia if you are not permitted to do so.
We all want a peaceful coexistence among species, and we should all want animal families reunited. To do so, we need to help prevent well-intentioned but problematic removal of squirrels, rabbits and other animal babies. Most wild animals are not a good candidates for wildlife rehabilitation and will be fine on their own. Dropping a healthy animal off at a center is not a solution. It is very hard for them to suddenly succeed in a new location, away from family members and familiar habitat.
Wherever we happen to find yourself in the world, here are top tips for all of us to be aware of:
First, know the baby season of your location & species. In Missouri, and many other US states, baby season starts shortly after winter, in the month of February and July?When many find what they believe to be orphans. Did you know that squirrel mothers have around 4 different nest sites? This helps them move their family from one tree to another if the nest gets infested, harmed by weather, or found by predators. Mama Squirrel may simply be moving her babies to another home. She will come back for her babies! Just like any other animal, however, she will not risk herself and her other babies to come get the "misplaced" baby if a human is clearly present. By placing the baby away from any predators in a high location, the baby will cry and you may be able to quietly witness her baby’s retrieval, while staying out of sight, at least until the sun sets. Without giving squirrel parents this opportunity, we are accidentally kidnapping a very vulnerable child. Most of us want to help and we think we’re saving, but many people end up irreparably harming animals in these situations.
Please also remember that baby squirrels, owls, birds, rabbits, etc. are very sensitive and regular milk can kill them, while water can aspirate into young lungs, killing them. So do not try to feed or water the animal. If it wishes to drink on its own, from a bowl, that can be provided. Keep the baby warm by placing him/her on a blanket or towel, with a warm water bottle underneath. Leave the rabbit or baby deer where its mother has left him/her for the day. In the case of a baby squirrel, place him/her close to the nest and watch for the return of their mother. Place above ground, well away from predators, to wait for moms to return, until dusk. If the squirrel is injured, or the mother does not return, you will need to contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator in your state. If it is an injured adult squirrel, wear leather gloves and be cautious when handling them. When an animal is injured, they are very scared and may bite or claw you, to protect themselves.
In addition to reuniting, please do not trap animals during their baby season or relocate parents. Raccoon trapping creates very serious issues during baby season. Like any good parent, wildlife parents seek good homes for their babies - sometimes under a deck or behind a shed. That location may be inconvenient for us humans, but not for the wildlife mom, especially if we have left food accessible outside. Most animals are opportunistic feeders and will enjoy living near a ready food supply (like uncovered trash cans and cat food left outdoors), along with warmth and shelter. If a mom is trapped by us and then relocated, her orphans do not stand much chance of survival, or being successfully reunited at the mom’s new site. Fortunately, coexistence and humane eviction for most wildlife is simple! We can play loud music (anything vibrational is especially good), and remove such food supplies. The moms will move their families to quieter, safer locations.
Squirrel babies often fall out of trees when people hire tree cutters. Avoid cutting trees in the spring and fall, when squirrel (and bird??) babies are common, and be sure to look for nests of all kinds. Also, watch where you are mowing the lawn or doing other motorized work outside; many rabbits and opossums are chewed up by our and our workers’ equipment. It’s a terrible experience, for all involved.
Once babies survive baby season, there is juvenile season – also known as “exploration” season. Young squirrels learn to climb trees, bird learn to fly, & foxes emerge from dens to learn to hunt, while their moms (and often fox and bird dads) are nearby, watching. Deer and other crepuscular species only feed in the morning and at dusk. During the rest of the daytime, fawns are being told by their moms to "wait here, & don't move", while birds are learning to fly and bunnies are hopping around. We need to leave these animals to their explorations and their resting spots. Wildlife will not risk their other kids to save an exploring juvenile. Like many squirrels, young birds may fall and need some help. But just follow the reunite process, and you’re doing the right thing. If you’re quite worried about finding a true orphan, consider the young rabbit’s ears: are they up? If so, that baby is generally old enough to be on its own. Similarly, if a fawn’s ears are up and its tushy is clean, mom is taking care of him/her. If a fawn’s ears are curled or its behind dirty, something may have happened to its mom mom, creating a true orphan needing rehab.
Key Take-aways: Every animal species requires a specific, strict diet to stay healthy. And babies are especially vulnerable to harm by well-intentioned humans. Do not feed or try to force water into a young animal. Reunite healthy babies and be sure an animal is an orphan or needing medical attention before carrying the animal into your home and a rehab center.
OTHER IDEAS: To be ready to help in animal emergencies, the following items may be kept in your home and/or vehicle: cardboard or plastic animal carrier/box, Towel or blanket (with no strings or loops), Net, Leash, Thick gloves, Broom (to gently coax a wild animal into a carrier or away from a dangerous area), Snow shovel or similar tool (to gently lift an immobile mammal into a carrier or out of harm’s way), & Call us!