Wildlife Rescue Tips

March 20, 2024

Wildlife Rescue Guidelines
Article printed with permission from Northwoods Wildlife Center in Minocqua, WI

A young animal that seems to have been abandoned by its mother, usually is not. Most often she is nearby. Many animals leave their young for long periods of time to find food, or to not draw attention to their babies to keep them safe from predators. Many well-meaning people “rescue” young animals they believe to be orphaned, when in fact they are not. Taking an orphan into care is difficult and time consuming. Almost always the animal has a better chance of survival in the wild. Here are some guidelines to help you decide if an animal is in need of assistance.

Some situations which you should intervene:

• Young animals that have been taken from their nest or den by a pet or other predator.
• Young animals covered with fleas, maggots or ants
• Young animals in a dangerous place (i.g. in the road, near pets, etc.)
• Young animals huddled near a dead female.
• Young animals found in a chimney with no parent around.
• Young animals with obvious injuries.
Injured Wildlife Your help is needed if an animal
• can be captured easily or does not attempt to flee your approach
• appears to have problems with movement
• sits on the road, not moving for traffic
• is convulsing or not breathing normally
• has a drooping wing or runs when other birds fly
• sits for a long time with its feathers puffed out
• is bleeding

What should I do?


a) There is a rabbit nest in our yard. Now what? While it is not possible to always relocate the nest, you can mow around it & keep pets away. The young are only in the nest for 12-15 days, so this shouldn’t be too inconvenient.

b) There is no sign of the mother. The mother is probably still around. Rabbits usually nurse their young at night to help keep predators away. Their milk is so rich they only need to nurse once or twice a night. If the babies’ eyes are closed, place blades of grass or very light twigs in a X pattern over the nest. If it is disturbed, you’ll know Mom has returned. Baby rabbits are on their own when they are about the size of an adult human fist.

c) If the nest cannot be found & the rabbit is not the size of an adult human fist, call your nearest wildlife rehabilitator.

d) If the rabbit is injured, call your nearest wildlife rehabilitator


Where was it found? On the street, under a window, brought in by pet? Are the parents in the area? Can you see the nest? Does the bird open its mouth expecting food? Is weather a factor? Is it partially feathered? Does it have tail feathers? The answers to these questions will determine the best course of action. If the bird is unfeathered or lacking tail feathers:

a) if you can find the nest, put the bird back and watch from a distance for 1-2 hours for the parents to return. If they do not, call your nearest wildlife rehabilitator.

MYTH: “If a baby bird is found outside of the nest and put it back in, the mother will not resume their care”. In fact, the opposite is true… Birds have a poorly developed sense of smell. Handling by humans to put the baby back in its nest will not discourage the parents from resuming their care. Humans hanging around too close to the nest to watch the birds after a rescue will cause problems however.

Make your observations from a distance.

b) if the nest has been destroyed (i.g., blown out of the tree), but the parents are still around, an artificial nest may be possible. Call your nearest wildlife rehabilitator.

c) if the bird is obviously injured, cold, has maggots, etc. call your nearest wildlife rehabilitator. If the bird is partially feathered including tail feathers: This is a brancher or a fledgling. A brancher is a bird old enough to venture out from the nest (like go out on a branch), but not ready to test his wings. A fledgling is a bird that is fledging, or testing his wings. Often times these birds are found on the ground. If there is a limb within reach, you may put the bird back into the tree, or one nearby. Don’t be surprised if the bird winds up on the ground again. You can leave the bird on the ground and keep all pets away. Fledglings on ground shouldn’t be fed. The parents use food as a tool for training. If the bird has been brought in by a pet, call your nearest wildlife rehabilitator as soon as possible.

Healthy, uninjured fawns are often mistakenly picked up by well-meaning, uninformed people. If you find a fawn near your home or lying in a field, keep all dogs inside & observe. Be patient & observe from a distance until dusk or the next morning. Does leave their young for long periods. If a fawn is injured, call your nearest wildlife rehabilitator.

The Northwoods Wildlife Center is willing to offer advice and assistance with almost every wildlife situation. It is recommended that you call them prior to bringing an animal to them so they can counsel you on the situation. They can be reached 24 hours a day at (715) 356-7400. Tours of the facility and its long-term residents are also available.

Check out their website at www.northwoodswildlifecenter.org.

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