When NOT to "Rescue" a Wild Animal

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Leave Bambi alone - his mother will return
Photo courtesy WA Dept Fish and Wildlife

Many wild animals do not need to be "rescued" and there is almost NEVER a time when you should remove a baby wild animal from its natural environment – even if it appears abandoned.

More often than not, just leaving a young animal alone affords it the best chance for survival.

Every year hundreds of young wild animals such as fawns, baby seals, and baby birds are needlessly "rescued" and referred to wildlife rehabilitators.

This is extremely detrimental and harmful to the young animal, as well as disruptive and costly to wildlife rehabilitators when they most need to concentrate limited resources on truly orphaned or injured wildlife.

Young owl on ground in Shoreview Park
Photo by Nikki Chau
Unless the animal is showing obvious signs of illness or injury such as bleeding, vomiting, panting, shivering, lethargy, ruffled feathers or fur, attack by cat/dog, leave them there.

You can help by always consulting a licensed wildlife rehabilitator prior to collecting the animal, thereby preventing its handling.

Locally, consult PAWS in Lynnwood  425-412-4040 or Sarvey Wildlife Care Center in Arlington 360-435-4817.

Why these babies do not need rescuing. Young animals are often left alone for hours while their parents gather food.

They are being tended by their parents in ways best for their survival and appropriate for that species, ensuring that they retain natural wild behaviors.

It is normal and typical for a deer fawn to be left alone hiding in a bed. It is also common for young birds to leave the nest before they are fully feathered or flight-ready.

Baby crows live on the ground
Photo by Peggy Bartleson
They will be fed on the ground for a day or two by the parents until they are able to fly.

Careful observation before distressing and collecting these animals should help you make a correct decision whether or not they are truly orphaned or injured and need help.

Yes, very young birds sometimes fall out of nests. If you can safely reach the nest, put it back.

The adults will NOT reject their young because "they smell like people." If the bird is older or you cannot find the nest, place it in a tree or shrub or on a shaded portion of a roof, out of the way of cats, dogs, and children.

Do not unnecessarily handle or move it from the general area where it was found. If a baby bird shows obvious signs of illness or injury, call a wildlife rehabilitator first and describe what you see.

This information also applies to marine mammals. Baby seals are often found on local beaches above the tide line. Their mothers park them there while they go hunt for food.


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