Baby Fox Squirrel being fed a special formula by a steady handed volunteer. We feed with a syringe and a nipple
As the weather turns warmer and the last of the snow melts, we are preparing for spring babies: squirrels, woodchucks, songbirds, bunnies, owlets, and others. This is a good time to review when and how to rescue animals that need help.
How to Rescue A Baby Bird
Nestling Red-bellied Woodpeckers in a “nest” made with a toilet paper lined plastic dish.
If you know for a fact that the parent birds are gone, there is no way to put the babies back, or the babies are cold and limp, then they need to be rescued. Remove the babies from the nest. Keep them in a small, dark, covered box with holes punched in the lid. Warm the babies by positioning a heating pad, set on LOW, under the box. Other ways to warm the babies are to fill a ziplock bag or rubber glove with warm water and place it in the box. Do NOT put fresh green grass in the box because the moisture in it will chill them. You may line the box with paper towels. Do NOT pet or handle the babies. They may gape (open their beaks) but do NOT feed them anything including milk, water, honey, egg or homemade formula because their stomachs will not tolerate these items and it is easy to drown a baby bird with fluid. Call a Wildlife Rehabilitator for help as soon as possible.
If a nest of baby rabbits is accidentally uncovered by a lawnmower, rake, shovel, or weed whacker, carefully check to make sure the bunnies are not hurt, cut, or bleeding. If they are NOT hurt, put them back in the nest and cover them up. When putting bunnies back in the nest (especially older ones), they will “pop” up trying to hop. This is normal. If they are injured or appear lethargic, follow these instructions. The real test is the body temperature and activity of the babies. If they are cold and limp or injured, then they need to be rescued. Remove the babies from the nest. Keep them in a small, dark, covered box with holes punched in the lid. Add a towel or piece of clean material for the bunnies to snuggle and hide in. Warm the bunnies by positioning a heating pad, set on LOW, under HALF the box. Other ways to warm the babies are to fill a ziploc bag or rubber glove with warm water and place it in the box. Do NOT put fresh green grass in the box because the moisture in it will chill them. Do NOT pet or handle the bunnies because they stress easily. They may look calm but they are actually just very scared. Do NOT feed the bunnies anything including any kind of milk, water, honey, eggs or homemade formula because their stomachs will not tolerate it. Call a Wildlife Rehabilitator for help as soon as possible.
Other baby mammals, such as woodchucks and opossums
Young opossums found on the road next to the dead mom.
Baby mammals must be kept warm. Most cannot keep themselves warm until they near weaning.
- Use a heating pad on low under the box you have contained the mammal in.
- You can pour rice into a sock and tie off the sock. Heat that in the microwave for a minute and a half.
- You can put hot water into a soda pop or water bottle in a sock. CHECK often as the water cools quickly. Most mammals’ body temperatures are warmer than ours (about 102 degrees)
- It is important that the baby be able to move away from the heat source.
- For smaller mammal species, a secure box small or a smaller cat carrier will do with a small box inside it.
- For larger mammal species, use a larger box or pet carrier with t-shirts on the bottom. Put air holes in the box before you put the baby inside.
- Place the container in a room away from all household activity (pets, children, etc.).
- Prevent the possible transmission of parasites or disease by not letting children handle wild animals or letting them near pets.
- Do not forget to continue to provide supplemental heat during transport to a licensed wildlife rehabilitator.
- Do not try to feed any animal you find. There are special formulas made specifically for wild animals. Human baby milk, or cow’s milk can kill a wild animal.
Young Raptors (owls, hawks, falcons)
Young American Kestrels belong to the falcon family.
Young raptors that fall from nests, are caught by other animals and injured and are orphaned if something happens to the parents, are often brought into rehabilitation. If you find a baby or juvenile raptor, locate a box and place a towel in the bottom. Poke some holes in the box, and wearing gloves pick up the bird using a another towel to wrap around it to prevent you or the bird from being injured. Raptors have sharp talons and beaks and can grab or bite. Place the bird in the box and contact a rehabilitator immediately. Keep the bird warm, do not feed it, or handle it.
Baby animals and birds require specialized care and food. It is important to call a licensed wildlife rehabilitator as soon as a wild animal is found and needs assistance.
WILDSIDE Rehabilitation Center (Eaton Rapids, MI ) 517-663-6153
Other rehabilitators within Michigan can be found at: http://www.michigandnr.com/dlr/