Wild Babies

ONE OF THE SADDEST things about spring is the number of young animals that are taken from their parents by well-meaning humans who think they are doing a good deed by "saving" an "abandoned" baby. In spring when many animals are trying to raise young, animal welfare organizations and wildlife rescue clinics are often overwhelmed by “orphans" that, tragically, were not orphaned at all.

Animal mothers rarely abandon their young, but they do need to eat in order to have the energy to nurse. So they must leave their babies alone for periods of time while they search for food. Animals as diverse as deer and rabbits leave babies for extended periods. So if you find a baby animal alone, please do not disturb it unless you know the parents are dead or the baby is clearly at risk of death from starvation or dehydration.

Baby birds, also, rarely need our “help.” If you find an un-feathered baby bird that has fallen out of its nest, you can replace it in the nest if you can find the nest and reach it safely. (Birds have little or no sense of smell, so they will not know you have handled the baby.) If you can’t find the nest, leave the baby alone if there are no cats in the area; otherwise put the baby in a small basket of some type (the baskets that strawberries come in often work well) and place it in the branches of a tree; chances are the parents will hear its peeping and feed it. (Bear in mind, however, that some birds nest on the ground. If you find an entire nest full of babies in a safe location, chances are that’s just where mom wants them.)

Birds with feathers should also be left alone even if they appear to “not know how to fly.” They are probably in training; their parents are nearby, watching out for them. As long as a young bird has feathers, it's usually best not to interfere with it.

If you want to help nesting birds at this time of year, keep domestic cats and dogs indoors so that they are not able to prey on young birds. It’s also helpful to avoid making big changes in the appearance of your landscape during nesting season; even heavy pruning in the vicinity of a nest may cause birds to abandon it. Please pass this information along to others so that they too will know that the best way to help wild babies is usually to leave them alone.

1 comment:

jodi said...

Wonderful words of wisdom, Flora. You have such a gentle way of teaching and of sharing your enthusiasms. Remind me to tell you about the obnoxious pedant I received an email from recently. Good for a giggle....