Best Rescue Advice for Wildlife in our Area
It is vital to understand the real facts about rabies and know what reasonable safety measures you can take to prevent exposure to the rabies virus, such as keeping rabies vaccinations current for your pets, and getting prompt post-exposure shots if bitten by a possibly rabid animal.
Rabies is usually passed to humans via the bite of a rabid animal. Occasionally it can be transmitted if the saliva of an infected animal gets into a fresh scratch, break in the skin, or contact with mucous membranes (eyes, mouth, and nose). Rabies is not transmitted through the blood, urine, or feces of an infected animal, nor is it spread airborne through the open environment. In addition, the virus does not live long when exposed to the open air and is no longer viable once saliva dries. Fortunately, the cases of humans getting rabies are quite infrequent in the United States.
The best way to protect against rabies is by taking sensible precautions and using good common sense. Do not touch or approach a wild raccoon, and always wear gloves if you must handle any wild animal, even if it is dead. Use a shovel or a piece of cardboard to move dead animals. Be cautious with all wild animals, as they can carry parasites and other disease.
Enjoy wild animals from a distance. Do not handle, feed, or attract them. Never adopt or bring a wild animal into your home. Teach children not to touch unknown animals, wild or domestic, even if they appear friendly.
Sick or Injured Adults
Determine the state and consider the location of the raccoon. If it appears to be healthy and alert (despite acting a little sleepy), is moving well (no obvious signs of injury), and is not overly friendly or aggressive, then leave the animal so that it moves away on its own.
If the raccoon is obviously injured, dragging its back legs, unstable on its feet, thin, or drooling at the mouth, don’t approach it. Contact animal control or your local wildlife rehabilitator for further advice.
If a raccoon cub is found in or near its home, it can usually be reunited with its mother over the next couple of nights. Place the cub in a box outside the area in which it was found. Place a towel that the raccoon cub has been sleeping on just outside the box for the mother to smell. It is important that someone watches from a safe distance to ensure the cub remains warm and safe while attempting the reunion.
When raccoon cubs are hungry and want their mother they may wander away from the den searching for her, if she’s gone too long. If you find young raccoons without an adult, watch for several hours to see if the mother returns. A mother raccoon will not abandon her cubs unless she is killed or the den site is disturbed. If the cub is not retrieved at night, something has likely happened to the mother.
Do not touch the raccoon with your bare hands. Using gloves, a towel, or even a shovel gently put the cub or cubs in a cardboard box with air holes and place soft bedding inside. Do not attempt to feed it, as wildlife requires specialized foods. Keep the raccoon in a dark, quiet location away from pets and children until the animal can be transported to Wild Things Freedom Center or another local wildlife rehabilitator.
Opossums are not aggressive by nature, but any animal that is scared or injured may bite. The normal reaction of a scared or injured opossum may be to hiss, bare its teeth, make itself appear larger than it is, and possibly drool to frighten away predators.
To secure the opossum, place a clothesbasket, trashcan or something similar over it. Using a thick towel, blanket, or jacket, cover the opossum. Using a firm but gentle approach, pick it up and place the opossum in a small kennel or a cardboard box slightly larger than the animal itself. Make sure there are air holes and that any openings are securely closed. If possible, wearing leather garden gloves will offer an additional source of protection from bites or scratches.
If an opossum is found to have babies in her pouch, please check the area for babies that may have been dislodged and scattered. Opossum babies can often be “heard” before they are “seen” as their cries sound like a hissing noise.
Keep the animal in a dark, quiet location away from pets and children until the animal can be transported.
The sooner the injured animal gets the medical attention it needs, the better are its chances for survival. You may offer a shallow dish of water. Do not attempt to feed it, as wildlife requires specialized foods.
Once babies become active and venture outside the pouch, this is the time when they may get “left behind” by mom. Any opossum that is smaller than the size of a kitten is in need of rescue. There is no reuniting it with the mother unless “mom” is still visible at the location.
In this case, place the opossum close enough to the mother opossum, so that she can hear the baby’s cries (a hissing sound). If the mother can hear the baby, she will often circle back close enough that the baby will climb onto her. Please watch the baby from a safe distance so as not to deter the reunion.
Foxes are difficult to trap because they are so quick but we do take them into our rescue when they have been contained and can be transported to us. They can and will bite so we suggest that a professional be called to help with trapping a fox. A local professional that we recommend is The Snake Chaser. You can find his contact information here. There is a charge for him to come out and trap any animal for which you request his services. https://thesnakechaser.com/
If you have found a fawn that looks healthy and is resting peacefully, then everything is probably fine. The mother will not reject the fawn due to human scent, but it is best not to touch it. Back away and leave it alone. If dogs pose a risk, please keep them inside until mom returns.
Fawns can be returned to their mothers if taken back to where they were found within 8-12 hours. If you accidentally startle a fawn, return the fawn to the area in which it was found. The fawn can usually locate the mother by itself.
Fawns wandering and crying may be an indication that something has happened to the mother. If you are sure the mother has not returned for several hours and the wandering fawn is young enough to allow you to pick it up, then it needs to be rescued.
If the fawn is older and difficult to capture, but stays around the area, you can supplement its diet. Put out a clean container of water and set out its normal diet, like cuttings from pyracantha, blackberry bushes, roses, alfalfa, or apples. Don’t feed any wildlife by hand.
Fawns that are Sick Or Injured
If you find a fawn that is thin, obviously injured, or is surrounded by flies, bring the animal to Wild Things Freedom Center or another licensed rehabilitator promptly.
Gently pick up the animal in a towel, jacket or something similar. If possible, wear leather gloves. Most animals, even babies, may bite when scared. Please place the animal in a box slightly larger than the animal itself, create air holes and secure the box opening with tape.
You may offer a shallow dish of water. Do not attempt to feed it, as wildlife requires specialized foods.
Keep the animal in a dark, quiet location away from pets and children until the animal can be transported.
The sooner the injured animal gets the medical attention it needs, the better are its chances for survival. Bring it immediately to Wild Things Freedom Center or to another professional wildlife rehabilitator in your area.
Babies and Nests
If a baby squirrel has fallen from its nest, place the squirrel in a box lined with cloth and place at the base of the tree from which it fell, or use a hanging basket and hang it as high as possible.
If a baby squirrel is not warm but healthy, it must be warmed before trying to reunite it or mom may think it is sick or dying. Warm the baby by placing it in a lined box on a heating pad set on low. A latex glove filled with warm water, or a sock filled with warmed dry beans can be placed near the baby to keep it warm when placed back outside. The glove or sock can be reheated in a microwave every few hours. A heated gel pack also works; just make sure it is not overheated.
If a whole nest has fallen or you have cut down a tree with babies, place the entire nest at the bottom of the tree or the location where the tree once stood. If the nest has been destroyed, make a temporary nest from a basket lined with soft bedding and place in the vicinity where the tree once stood.
More than 75% of the time, the mother will return for her babies. Allow three hours for retrieval. Keep pets inside during this time. If after a few hours, she has not returned, then the squirrels are in need of rescue.
Place the squirrels in a covered box lined with soft cloth and keep them warm by placing the box on a heating pad set on low. Please do not attempt to give a baby squirrel anything to eat or drink without first speaking to a rehabilitator. Bring the babies to Wild Things Freedom Center or another licensed rehabilitator promptly.
If a baby squirrel is obviously injured, has been caught by a cat or dog, or covered with ants or fleas, then the baby cannot be returned to its family.
Please do not attempt to give a baby squirrel anything to eat or drink without first speaking to a rehabilitator. Bring the baby to Wild Things Freedom Center or another licensed rehabilitator promptly.
Baby rabbits can be returned to the nest even after it has been accidentally uncovered or disturbed. Even though you may not see the mother when you find a nest; mom is probably hiding nearby watching your every move.
Baby rabbits grow quickly and are on their own at about 4 weeks old. If pets or children pose a risk to the nest, then simply keep them away for a couple of weeks and allow the rabbits to grow and move on.
If the nest has been disturbed, wipe hands on the grass before replacing any fur or nesting material and babies. Place a long string or stick pattern neatly across the entire nest. If the pattern has not been disturbed within 12 hours, then assume the babies are in need of rescue.
If your pet has found a rabbit’s nest and brought one to you, follow your pet to the nest. Unless you can keep you pet inside, all of the babies will need to be rescued or your pet will return for each one.
When baby rabbits are about 5 inches long, or the size of a 12 ounce soda can, they are totally on their own and away from the mother. These rabbits do not need to be brought to a rehabilitator unless they are injured.
Baby rabbits require very special diets and care, so please do not attempt to feed them. Babies die easily, often due to the stress of handling by humans. Place them in a covered box with soft bedding in a dark, quiet location away from pets and children. If the bunnies’ eyes are closed, place the box on a heating pad set on low. Bring the babies to Wild Things Freedom Center or another licensed rehabilitator promptly.
Gently remove the animal from the ground using a towel or cloth and place it inside a covered box with air holes. Bring the box inside and place it in a dark, quiet location secure from pets and children.
If the bird has hit a window, wait two hours before returning outside. From a squatting position, remove the box lid and gently touch the back of the bird’s tail to encourage it to fly. If the bird does not fly, simply hops from the box, or has any type of injury, it will need further care.
The sooner an injured animal gets the medical attention it needs, the better are its chances for survival. You may offer the bird a shallow dish of water, but do not attempt to feed it.
Injured Chicks or Hatchlings
If the chick or hatchling is obviously injured, cold, or has been caught by a cat or dog, then it cannot be returned to its nest and needs to be taken to a wildlife rehabilitator immediately.
Place the chick in a covered box with air holes and line with cloth. Keep it warm using a hot water bottle or place the box on top of a heating pad set on low.
If you suspect that a nest is orphaned, watch from a safe distance for three hours to ensure the mother will not return. Do not disturb or remove the nest.
Orphans – Hatchlings
A bird that is not well feathered or not strong enough to stand should be placed back into its nest. If you cannot reach the nest, make a substitute nest from a small wicker basket, a strawberry container, or a hanging basket. Line with pine needles or leaves. Place the basket as close to the original nest as possible. Watch for three hours to ensure that the mother returns to feed both nests.
Orphans – Fledglings
Fledglings are well feathered, hopping strongly, and will not stay in a nest if returned. They can remain on the ground for several days before strengthening their flying skills and require a different approach to reunite them with their parents.
Place the fledgling on a nearby branch off the ground or back in the vicinity where it was originally found and leave the area. Listen for the sounds of an adult calling or carrying food around. Watch to ensure the parents find the fledgling.
If the location is unsafe, try to stay within 30 feet when selecting another location. Carry the bird to a few locations and let it call out for its parents. A distress call is the fastest way to find a parent. Other non-parent adults of the same species may also respond to the distress call, so it will be important to watch for the parents who are the only birds that will feed it. If dogs or cats are in the yard, bring them inside. If the parents are not seen returning after three hours, you can consider the fledgling orphaned.
Orphans – Ducklings and Goslings
Attempting to pair a single duckling back with its mother is not recommended. If it is paired with the wrong mother, it will be killed. A lone duckling cannot survive on its own without its mother’s warmth and protection and quickly fall prey to other ducks, turtles, or egrets/herons. An orphaned duckling or gosling should be rehabilitated with the same species of similar age and size to avoid imprinting or socializing to humans.
Place the baby duckling or gosling in a covered box or kennel with air holes and line with cloth. Keep it warm placing the box on top of a heating pad set on low. Bring the fledgling to Wild Things Freedom Center or a federally permitted rehabilitator for immediate care.
Uninjured – On Road
If possible, move the turtle to the far side of the road in the direction it was traveling. Move the turtle the shortest distance possible to the nearest wooded or grassy area. Do not relocate and release box turtles to a “safer” area, even if it looks suitable for box turtles. Turtles have a strong desire to return “home” and will likely be at greater risk from cars and roadways on their journey.
Relocating a turtle into a new population may also introduce disease the existing population is not able to tolerate.
Help the turtle cross the road and place it into the nearest lake or pond. Whenever possible, release them into the water source closest to where you found them in the direction they were heading.
Injured or Sick
If you find a turtle that has been hit by a car, chewed on by a dog, hit with a lawnmower or weed eater, or has an obvious illness like bubbles coming from the nose, large bumps around the ears, or an eye infection, it needs medical attention.
Place the turtle in a box lined with a towel or cloth. Cover and make sure there are adequate air holes. Do not place the turtle outside where predators can get it or where flies can land on it. Transport the turtle to Wild Things Freedom Center or another reptile rehabilitator promptly.
If a snake is injured after being run over by a car or hit with a lawnmower, it is in need of medical assistance. Many rehabilitators, exotics veterinarians, and herb specialists are trained and willing to provide medical and supportive care to injured wild snakes.
If it is possible and safe, help it cross in the direction it is heading. Often, simply walking towards it will be enough to cause the snake to slither away. But if you use a long stick and gently tap the road just behind its tail to encourage it to move this ensures that both you and the snake will not be injured.
We do not accept or handle any venomous snakes and refer any questions or request for services to the local expert – The Snake Chaser. You can find his website here. There is a charge for any services that you request from him. https://thesnakechaser.com/
Sick or Injured Adults
It is essential to keep in mind that a grounded bat is likely to be sick; therefore bats should never be rescued with bare hands. However, less than one half of one percent actually has rabies.
Wearing thick gloves or using a thick towel, quietly approach the bat and pick it up. Hold the bat securely, but not too tightly. Place the bat into a box or a container with a lid containing small air holes.
To apprehend the bat without physically touching it or injuring it, place a box, coffee can or other similar object over the bat. Using a piece of cardboard, gently slide it between the box and the surface the bat is on (i.e. floor, wall or ceiling). Keeping the cardboard in place, gently turn the container right side up.
Bats are very intelligent and can easily squeeze through a ¼” x ½” crack, so make sure the container is free of large holes and secure. Take the bat to a local bat rehabilitator.
Any bat that bites a person should be tested for rabies as soon as possible, and post-exposure treatment should begin immediately for the person bitten unless the bat is confirmed negative for rabies.
To learn how to remove a bat from your home, or how to reunite an orphaned pup with its mother, or more about bats in general, visit the Bat World Sanctuary website for complete step-by-step instructions. https://batworld.org