At Bay Street Animal Hospital, our staff loves animals of all shapes and sizes.
A part of that love and appreciation for all creatures is knowing when to leave wildlife to its own devices. As we move along into spring and summer, the temperatures begin to rise, and so does the likelihood of stumbling upon a seemingly abandoned baby animal. It can be tough to resist the urge to assist these helpless creatures. But in many instances, you could be doing more harm than good by intervening.
Birds of a feather…
Baby birds are often mistaken for being injured when found on the ground. The truth is that if the bird has feathers, it has likely been sent out of the nest by their mother to learn to fly. Birds at this age are called fledglings and will not stay in the nest even if you return them.
If the bird you find does not have feathers, it is called a nestling. If you’re able to locate the nest, you can return a newly hatched baby to its nest where its mother can care for it. There is no truth to the old wives’ tale that a mother bird will abandon its young if it’s been touched by a human. So do the right thing: Go ahead and put the nestling back where it belongs.
Small mammals need their mothers too!
If instead, you’ve stumbled upon a small mammal, such as a squirrel, raccoon, or opossum, the best way to assist is to create a safe space by the nearest tree to where the baby was found. A small cardboard box lined with towels or blankets will keep the animal warm while it waits for its mother to return.
Spring is Kitten Season
The most frequent intervention we see is with kittens. Few can resist the cries of a tiny kittens, and immediately look to rescue them. What most people don’t realize is that a majority of times the mother will return and be searching for her little ones, who she fears may be lost. In order to forage for food or find a safe space, mother cats must leave their kittens for periods of time. But this does not mean the kittens have been abandoned. It is important to give ample time and observe from a significant distance to see if the kittens have been truly left on their own. The mother will not approach if humans are hovering too closely.
By allowing baby animals to flourish on their own, we contribute to keeping the ecosystem balanced. As cute as many wild animals are, we must remember that they are just that — wild — and it is not our place to take them in as pets.
If an animal you find is injured — has visible wounds or appears to have broken bones, for example, or it has been an extremely long length of time with no sign of a mother returning — please reach out to us at 718-420-9100 day or night so we may direct you to the proper resources. We are here for you and our wild friends 24/7.