What to do if you find orphaned wildlife
by Ontario SPCA and Humane Society | Wildlife Fact Sheets | April 17, 2020
During the Spring, the Ontario SPCA and Humane Society typically receives many calls about orphaned wildlife – and this year is no different. We want to ensure you have all the information you need to protect wildlife and help them if they are in distress.
Note: Whenever young mammals are found, an attempt should be made to reunite them with their parent(s). Parents provide the best care for young wildlife. When young are inadvertently removed from their parents, it decreases the likelihood that they will survive, even with expert human care. Different species of mammals have different development phases and types of parental care, therefore it is important to know some specific information about a species prior to determining if an animal has been orphaned.
For more information on wildlife care and rehabilitation, contact Shades of Hope Wildlife Refuge.
Check out the links below for helpful information on finding a variety of orphaned wildlife in your communities.
What to do if you find orphaned deer
A fawn should be left where he/she is found (unless injured) and you can check the site again within 24 to 48 hours. If the fawn is gone, the mother has returned and moved the fawn. If the fawn has moved from the spot, is crying or injured, or if the mother is known to be dead (i.e. the young deer is seen near the body of a nursing doe), call a licensed wildlife rehabilitator to advise you on next steps, before touching the fawn.
What to do if you find a baby squirrel
If you’ve come across an orphaned squirrel, the first thing you should do is wait. Young squirrels should be given the opportunity to reunite with their mother if there is any chance that she is still available to care for them.
Unlike raccoons, mother squirrels will retrieve their young during the day, but not at night. Young squirrels should be placed in a shallow, open box with a heat source, such as a hot water bottle wrapped in a towel. A hot water bottle can be made from an empty plastic bottle, filled with warm water, wrapped in a towel and secured to the box with duct tape so it does not roll around.
Read Step 2 regarding finding baby squirrels here.
How to identify orphaned raccoons
It is easy to mistakenly think that young squirrels and raccoons have been orphaned when a parent is in fact, still caring for them. If the young are removed in these cases, they have essentially been ‘kidnapped.’
Read the steps to take with raccoons here.
How to identify orphaned rabbits
It is not uncommon to find nests of young rabbits in your yard or garden. Despite popular belief, cottontail rabbits do not burrow to create dens, but nest on the surface of the ground. Typically, female rabbits will find a small depression or hollow in the ground. They will then line the area with fur to use as a nest. Often these nests are found in the middle of open areas such as lawns or playing fields. If you find a group of baby rabbits lying in such a space, they are in their natural nest and do not necessarily need assistance.
Find out how to determine when baby rabbits need assistance.
How to identify orphaned birds and waterfowl
If a young bird is found out of the nest, there are several things to consider before deciding whether or not the bird should be taken to a wildlife rehabilitator. The first step is to determine whether the bird is a hatchling, a nestling, or a fledgling.
Find out how to discern the difference here on our blog.
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