Does the animal really need your help? Cottontail rabbits and deer often leave their babies alone. Songbirds spend time on the ground after leaving the nest but before they can fly. If the baby really needs help, put it in a clean box on a towel and keep it warm with the warmth from a light bulb or a sock stuffed with dry ice and heated in a microwave. Put the sock near, not on, the baby.
Common Myths About Wild Animals
- If you touch a baby animal, the mother will reject it. NO! No mother, wild or human, will reject her baby because someone touches it.
- I can help the baby animal by giving it some milk. NO! Cow’s milk will kill most baby animals. Under no circumstances ever give a baby wild animal cow’s milk or any food, for that matter. Call your local wildlife rehabilitator for information.
- Baby birds on the ground need help! NO! If the little birds have all their feathers and resemble miniature adults, LEAVE THEM ALONE. They are fledglings who have permanently left the nest. They are on the ground learning how to fly and forge. The parent birds are watching them from the trees and bringing them food.
- The baby fawn has been abandoned by its mother. NO! Mother deer leave their babies alone while foraging for food.
- Opossums are big rats. NO! Opossums are not rodents. They are marsupials and one of nature’s sanitary engineers. Because of their low body temperature, they cannot harbor diseases, such as rabies, and can even eat venomous snakes. Opossums are also relatively benign creatures who defend themselves by hissing, teeth-baring, and drooling. These are not signs of rabies but rather a bluff to scare off potential predators.
- Foaming at the mouth indicates rabies. NO! Foaming at the mouth can be a symptom of distemper, round worm, ticks, coccidia or other external or internal parasite overload, diabetes, liver failure, poisoning, epilepsy, herpes, allergies, and severe dehydration and emaciation, all of which are more common than rabies.
- If you get close to a skunk, you’ll get sprayed. MAYBE! It is actually pretty difficult for a skunk to spray a person. These animals only spray to defend themselves, such as when a dog runs up and grabs them or barks loudly and frightens them. Because skunks cannot “reload” very fast, they do not waste their odoriferous weapon. Instead, they will stamp their front feet as a warning to get you to back off.
- If I find a wild baby animal, I can raise itmyself as long as I have a bottle or syringe and milk. NO! Unless you have a wildlife rehabilitator’s license/permit issued by your state, you cannot raise the animal. If you are caught, the animals will be confiscated, sometimes destroyed by officials, and you can be fined. Further, cow’s milk could injure or even kill a wild baby animal. Wild animals require special food and housing so please contact your local wildlife rehabilitator.
- Feeding bread to ducks and other birds like geese is okay. NO! Bread is bad for all birds because there is no nutritional value. Feeding birds bread can cause severe health problems, including a debilitating condition called angel wing. You can buy nutritional feed for ducks and geese at most feed stores.