Injured or Orphaned Wildlife

The days are getting longer and warmer and the animals are becoming more active. Soon it will become what is often referred to as baby season, which is from the months of April - June. This is the main baby season for wildlife; however, many of the young will not leave their homes until later in the year. Many of us have come across baby birds or squirrels on the ground, or baby bunnies or deer that appear to be abandoned in our yards or on playgrounds.

Most people automatically assume that when they see a baby animal alone or out of the nest that the young one has been abandoned or that the parents have died. This is simply not the truth. In order to keep the babies safe one or both of the parents will leave the young alone for many hours. The less attention that is drawn to the nest or the young, the safer they will be from predators. Also, the parents can be off looking for food and resting during the day only to return in the evening. This helps to keep them safe from potential predators.

The best thing to do if you should happen to come across a possible injured or abandoned animal is to leave it where it is and contact your local animal control department or animal hospital. If you must move the animal out of harms way, wear gloves or use a towel and place the babies in a box. Put newspapers, old towel, or something else inside the box to keep them warm until help arrives. A baby’s chance of survival is much greater if it can be raised by its parents than by humans. This is why we always try to place the young back in the nest if possible.

Different Animal Species

Some of the more common animals found in habitat with humans are rabbits, birds, squirrels, and deer. Each species has identification on if they are displaced or not.


Baby rabbits are independent animals if they are:
  • More than 4 inches long
  • Have full fur, open eyes, and erect ears
Typically rabbits leave the nest very quickly, in approximately 14 days. Rabbit nests are usually a shallow, fur lined depression in the grass, wood chips, or other loose material. Since female rabbits feed their babies only at dusk or dawn, you are unlikely to see the mother around. To determine if they are abandoned or not, try placing sticks in an X pattern lightly over the nest. If nothing has been disturbed the following morning then the mother may not be around and contact animal control or wildlife rehabilitation.


Birds can be found in either of two growth stages:
  • Nestling - naked or with beginning feathers
  • Fledglings - feathered, sometimes with downy tufts
Nestlings are usually blown out of the nest, fall out or are pushed out. Since they have no feathers on them they will not survive long once out of the nest. Try to get them back into the nest or as near to the nest as possible quickly. Fledglings are learning to fly, thus they may be seen hopping around on the ground or attempting to fly low to the ground. The parents are around watching their offspring. If you do not see the parents you may hear them. This process may take several days before the young one can fly successfully.


Squirrels found on the ground will almost always need assistance, especially if they are small and have closed eyes: they are unable to climb let alone fend for itself. Using gloves or a towel, scoop up the young one and place it in a box at the base of the tree where it was found, or call animal control immediately. The mother will usually come back to the baby squirrel in a few hours. Do not leave it outside overnight. If the young squirrel is fully furred and able to climb it can survive on its own.


Fawns are most likely to always be seen alone because the mother will return typically at night. This is done not only for the baby deer’s protection, but also so the mother can feed. Unless the fawn looks injured, sick, or dazed, leave the animal alone so that the mother will feel safe in coming back to her baby.

Hopefully, these tips will help you this spring if you come across baby wildlife. Remember, if you are unsure of what to do or need help, please call Niles Animal Control Officer Allison Cole at 847-588-6508 (or 847-588-6500 for emergency assistance).

Additional Information:
Flint Creek Wildlife