Spring is springing. Warmer temps are just around the corner and our forests are about to explode with new life: bunnies, otters, owls, deer, foxes and more!
Every year, during this baby boom, kind conscientious people “rescue” young birds and mammals who are perfectly fine. It turns out that most of the time these spring babies aren’t abandoned; they’re just waiting on mom, or dad, to return. Foraging for those growing forest babies is a full-time job, not to mention, wildlife parents need to feed themselves too.
It’s quite likely that mom is even watching from a distance, waiting to return to her little one when it’s safe. If humans don’t interfere, the parents will feed, protect, and teach their offspring to survive. So, even if your intentions are good, you might actually be disrupting an important process. Remember, this is a natural occurrence. You’re just getting the unique opportunity to witness it.
So, what should you do if you encounter young wildlife?
Observe from a distance. Give mom plenty of space so she feels comfortable returning with food. If the animal does not appear injured, cold/wet, or endangered by a neighborhood dog or cat, there’s a good chance that mom will return and provide care. If mom hasn’t returned after 4 to 6 hours, and you’re sure you didn’t just miss her visit during that time, consider asking for help.
Call the experts
If you feel you may have found an abandoned animal, here are some important considerations.
Handling of any wild animal should be done with extreme care and caution. If you’ve determined that you need to intervene, first contact a local wildlife rehabilitator for assistance. And know that you’ll likely need to turn the animal over to them: nearly all mammals and birds are protected by State and Federal laws.
Keep in mind that local wildlife rehabilitators are volunteers. If you don’t reach someone with your first phone call, be patient and follow these guidelines from Friends of Texas Wildlife to provide basic care for commonly found wildlife in our area.
If you’ve found wildlife, of any age, that appears to be injured or sick do not approach the animal without first speaking to a professional. Contact one of these local wildlife resources who can help evaluate the situation and provide instruction.
So, if you come across babes in the woods, remember that they may not need rescuing. Mom might just be taking a much-needed break or is teaching her young how to be independent. Remember…mother knows best.