We’re just about to see the last of winter, which means that soon we’ll be seeing a boom of baby animals.
In fact, because our winter has been so mild, you may even start seeing baby animals earlier than normal.
We’re all eager to help if we think an animal is in trouble but well-meaning people often intervene when they shouldn’t. So, when should you step in and when should you leave well alone?
There’s no single right answer as to when you should intervene to help a baby bird.
Contrary to popular belief, you CAN return a baby bird to its nest (as birds have virtually no sense of smell) so try to do this if at all possible. You can also try making them a replacement nest should theirs be damaged or destroyed. Some babies will be encouraged by parents to leave the nest whilst fledging and some others, like Tawny Owls, are bold enough to explore by themselves.
If you find a nest full of babies who appear to have been orphaned then observe from a safe distance to see if a parent returns to feed them.
Baby rabbit/squirrel/hedgehog/other mammal
Litters of baby rabbits are kept safely underground in their burrows, so it’s unusual to see them. If you do see any baby rabbits – and they have their eyes closed still – then it’s possible they have been dug up by a predator. Try to repair the burrow for them and then check back to see if it’s been disturbed before taking any action.
Baby squirrels can often fall out of their nests (or ‘dreys’) or the nests can get destroyed in storms. Mothers will often leave the babies alone to build a new nest and then come back for them, but they can suffer head trauma from falls. If any appear injured or seem cold, you should intervene.
You may find that an opportunistic mother squirrel or glis glis has made your attic their nesting spot. If disturbed, the mothers may flee (after giving you a nasty shock!) in which case you should avoid touching any of the litter and see if she returns.
Deer will often leave their babies safely nestled in long grass for a number of hours whilst they go and graze, so it’s not easy (or quick!) to tell if a fawn has been abandoned and needs help. Mothers often return to them around dusk as this is when most native predators do their hunting.
Baby badgers tend to stay underground until they are around 8 weeks old so it’s unusual to see them wandering above-ground.
You may however, see fox cubs out and about exploring during the day with their mother as she teaches them essential skills.
Generally, seeing either a fox or badger cub alone should set alarm bells ringing that they may need your help, although observe first to check that the cub is not just being moved by the mother.
However cute and appealing something may be, it’s far better off being rehabilitated and released back into its natural environment. These are still wild animals, and it’s impossible for us to do as good a job as their mums would.
Raising baby animals involves a huge amount of hard work – for example, some baby birds require feeding every 15 minutes from dawn to dusk! If you can’t devote the time they need, then it’s a far better idea to take it to your nearest wildlife centre.
Top tips for dealing with wildlife:
If trying to rescue an adult animal then it’s even more important to be wary and take precautions to keep yourself safe. Birds such as crows, seagulls and birds of prey can give you a very nasty bite. We would never advise trying to catch and transport an adult badger, fox or deer – these can cause significant damage to you and your property. Please call your nearest wildlife centre instead, who will have staff experienced in handling these animals.
There are a number of dedicated wildlife rescue centres all over the country. With their superior knowledge of dealing with wildlife in need, they are the best place to take any wild animals. However, our staff are always available to give advice if you need us!
The enormously helpful www.helpwildlife.co.uk/index.php offers an extensive list of wildlife centres to help you find your local rescue centre should you need one (or even fancy offering your services as a volunteer!).
Posted March 6, 2014 in Seasonal Care