Am I An Orphan?
People often mistakenly assume that a baby deer, called a fawn, is orphaned if found alone. Rest assured that the mother deer is probably nearby. The doe will only visit and nurse her fawn a few times a day to avoid attracting predators. Unless you know the mother is dead, leave the fawn alone.
Often fox kits will appear unsupervised for long periods of time while their parents are out hunting for food. Observe the kits from a distance; if they seem energetic and healthy, just leave them alone. Only contact a wildlife rehabilitator if the kits appear sickly or weak, or if you have reason to believe both parents are dead.
It’s a myth that birds abandon their young if a person touches them. Unlike other animals, birds are not sensitive to the human scent. If baby birds have fallen from their nest, you can put them back if safe to do so. If the original nest was destroyed or is too high to reach, hang a small basket close to where the original nest was. Woven stick baskets work well for this purpose-they resemble natural nests and allow rain to pass through so the birds won’t drown.
Birds that are fully feathered on their bodies, but with short tail feathers may be fledglings (adolescent birds). You might see them hoping about on the ground, but unable to fly. This is normal; birds learn to fly from the ground up! Often the young leave the nest several days before they are able to fly. The fledglings might remain on the ground for a few days, supervised and fed by their parents before they get the hang of flying. Keep a lookout for parent birds who will feed the fledglings a few times per hour.
Baby opossums are born as embryos, barely larger than a bee. They crawl up to their mother’s pouch where they spend about two months attached to one of her nipples. When baby opossums get to be about 3-4 inches long, they ride around on their mother’s back-and if they fall off, she might not notice the babies are missing. As a general rule, if the opossum is less than 7 inches long (not including the tail), he is an orphan. More than 7 inches long, he’s old enough to be on his own.
If you find a nest of baby rabbits, the nest is intact, and the babies are uninjured, leave them alone. Mother rabbits only visit their young 2-3 times a day to avoid attracting predators. If the rabbit nest has been disturbed, or if you think the babies are orphaned, recover the nest with surrounding natural materials such as grass and leaves. Put an “X” of sticks or yarn over the nest to assess if the mother is returning to nurse her young. If the “X” is moved but the nest is still covered by the next day, the mother has returned to nurse the babies. If the “X” remains undisturbed for 24 hours, contact a wildlife rehabilitator near you. A rabbit who is four inches long with open eyes and erect ears is independent from its mother and able to fend for itself.
If the baby raccoon has been seen alone for more than a few hours, he’s probably been orphaned. Mother raccoons closely supervise their young and don’t let them out of their sight. You can put an upside-down laundry basket over the baby (with a weight on top) and monitor him for a few hours. If the mother does not return, contact a local wildlife rehabilitator.
If tree work was recently done and the nest or baby fell down as a result, give the mother squirrel a chance to reclaim her young. If the baby is uninjured, leave him where he is, then leave the area and keep people and pets away. Monitor from a safe distance. If the baby is not retrieved by sundown, contact a local wildlife rehabilitator. If it’s chilly outside, or the baby isn’t fully furred, place him in a shallow box with something warm underneath (like a heating pad on a low setting or preferably a hot water bottle) so he doesn’t bet cold and compromised while waiting for his mother to return. Do not cover the squirrel with leaves or blankets, as the mother might not be able to find him.