Orphaned or Injured Wildlife Babies
At this time of year, we receive many calls regarding orphaned or injured wildlife. However, before making a call, you should ask yourself: Is that really an orphaned animal? You may come across a nest of birds or baby animals with no adult in sight. Unless you can see a problem (a nest out of the tree, broken legs or wings, a dead adult nearby, or wounds and bleeding), leave it alone! Wildlife parents are very devoted to the care of their young and will rarely abandon them. However, they can’t be in two places at once so it is quite possible that the adults are out foraging for food. If you have found an obviously injured wild animal or are certain that the nestlings have lost their parents, intervention is acceptable.
One of the first species of wildlife babies to appear in the spring and early summer are Eastern Cottontail Rabbits (Sylvilagus floridanus). Mother rabbits often leave their nest unattended through most of the day, returning to the nest briefly to nurse then leaving again to forage for food. It’s also normal for the nests, which are shallow, fur and vegetation-lined scrapes in the ground to be fairly exposed. Baby Cottontails, called “kits” leave the nest when they are still quite small, and despite their size are completely independent by five weeks old. This can make it extremely hard to tell if a nest of young rabbits has been orphaned or not.
If a baby bunny is 10 cm (four inches) in length or more, has almost no white on its forehead, is able to lift its ears up straight, is fully furred and is able to move about quickly, it is old enough to be on its own. However, if the baby has a defined white stripe on its head, is not fully furred and its ears are flat against its back, then the kit still requires its mother and should be in a nest. If you find a kit that is not in a nest, but there is a nest nearby, you can carefully put the baby back in the nest while wearing gloves. Unfortunately, baby Cottontails are very susceptible to stress and can die from it. They can also easily injure themselves if handled improperly.
If you can’t find the kit’s nest, or you think the rabbit is injured or sick, do not hesitate to call a Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre. Kettle Creek Conservation Authority works closely with a local wildlife rehabilitator, Carol Clarke, from Another Chance Wildlife Rehabilitation. Every year she takes in hundreds of injured or abandoned baby animals, including baby cottontails, which she carefully rehabilitates before returning them to the wild. She also has specialized training to rehabilitate “rabies vector species” which are raccoons, skunks and red foxes.
Not all wildlife babies need help, but when in doubt please contact a local wildlife rehabilitator.
Another Chance Wildlife Rehabilitation