Spring has spung…. And that means that new, young lives are about to pop up all over New Zealand! People often have the best intentions when presumable abandoned young animals are found, but action may do more harm than good.
Tips to Help Keep Wild Babies Safe
Mother rabbits only feed their kits once or twice per day, usually around dawn and dusk. A doe only visits and nurses their fawn a few times each day to avoid attracting predators. It’s normal to find fully feathered songbird babies on the ground and parents caring for them for several days until these young birds master flying.
If wildlife babies have a good body condition, seem well fed and crowing, leave them alone. These animals likely are not abandoned. In contrast, if you see an animal with poor body condition, visible wounds, bleeding, vomiting, or shaking, these animals need help. Consult your veterinarian or contact a wildlife rehabilitation facility near you if you think an animal is in crisis.
Rehabilitators can provide you with instructions on how to rescue and transport different species of baby animals. Always wear gloves or other protective clothing when handling any wild animals to minimize your risk of being bitten or scratched.
Never try to rescue an animal that is disoriented, having trouble breathing, acting aggressively, or covered in visible parasites, and make sure your children and pets stay away too. Call your local animal control agency, whose professionals can safely capture, test, and sound the alert if an animal is infected with transmissible disease.
If you find an uninjured bird that is a hatchling (featherless, eyes closed) or nestling (starting to develop feathers, eyes open), they often can be re-nested. You can either replace the original nest if it’s been blown down or make an artificial nest and secure it to a tree near where you found the baby bird. Then watch and see if the parents return to care for their young.
Once the baby calls out, the parent will locate it and re-nest the baby for you. In either case, if no parent returns within several hours of your re-nesting attempt, these animals may need professional help and care to survive.
See if your veterinarian is part of a rehabilitation network that can treat wildlife or exotics. If not, many clinics especially emergency clinics, have lists of local rehabilitation facilities and the types of animals they assist.
If You are Unable to Reach a Professional Immediately
If you can easily handle the wild animal, place the baby in a box with airholes, lined with something soft, like a T-shirt or towel. Keep the animal in a warm, dark, quiet place. Darkness makes the animal feel more secure. To minimise stress, leave the animal alone.
Although this sounds counterintuitive, do not provide food or water, unless instructed by a professional to do so. Different animals have species- specific nutritional needs. Also, providing even a small amount of water runs the risk of the animal getting wet, chilled, or even drowning if the animal is small and vulnerable. What seems like an act of kindness may do more harm than good.
Your local Wildlife Rehabilitation Facility is Wildbase Recovery in Palmerston North call 06 356 8199