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What to do if you find a baby animal

Finding young animals doesn’t necessarily mean that they have become orphaned. The young are left alone, sometimes for long periods of time. The parent is usually nearby and quite conscious of their offspring.

Also, keep in mind that despite their small size, many young animals are actually independent enough to fend for themselves.

It is important to remember to contact a wildlife rehabilitation center and seek advice before picking up any wildlife.


Newborns have no scent which conceals them from predators, a spotted coat for camouflage and the instinct to remain in place until the mother returns. All of these adaptations ensure survival.

Mother deer will forage for food, spending very few daylight hours with her young.

Unless there is an obvious injury, incessant “crying “or the presence of flies, it is best to do nothing and allow the mother a chance to return to her offspring. Intervention often means a life in captivity unless it can be reunited with its mother within 24 hours.


Great Horned Owl young are often referred to as “jumpers” because they will jump from the nest before they can fly.

Both parents will tend the young as they learn how to hunt and fly while on the ground. “Jumpers” often wander from the original nest sight. Please do not attempt pick up a “jumper”! The jumper needs to stay within earshot of the parents.

Great Horned Owl parents can hear their young for up to a half mile away. If you find a jumper, leave it!

If you have the jumper in your possession, it is extremely important to get it back to the parents.

The male and female will call to their young for 24 hours hoping to get a response. If they do not, they will cease, believing the owlet has perished.


It is perfectly normal for young birds, known as fledglings, to be on the ground.

These birds are fully feathered or almost fully feathered. They are learning how to fly and how to fend for themselves, from the ground up. The parents are nearby, protecting them and feeding them. If you can safely reach the nest, you can place the young back in the nest or create an artificial nest.

Because most songbirds have a limited sense of smell or no sense of smell, the mother bird will not reject them. Because it is natural for some species of birds to be on the ground before they can fly, don’t be surprised if you find the young on the ground again.


Just because you do not see the mother around a nest of babies do not assume the mother has abandoned them. Mother rabbits only come to the nest once a day, under the cover of darkness to care for her young.

To determine the activity of the mother rabbit, place string near the nest site, in the form of an “X.”

If the mother has returned, the string will be disturbed slightly on her return visit.

Also, if the young rabbit is the size of a tennis ball with eyes open and ears erect, it is independent of its mother.


If you see a “baby” squirrel on the ground by itself, it may mean it has fallen out of the nest, or perhaps the squirrel is venturing out to explore the world around it.

Give the mother squirrel at least a few hours to find the youngster and coax it back up the tree. Young squirrels have a difficult time maintaining a constant body temperature so on a cold fall day, it is better to rescue the young squirrel rather than allow it to be exposed to the elements.

Carbon County Environmental Education Center can be contacted by calling 570-645-8597 for wildlife emergency questions. To find a rehabilitator: http://pawr.com

To find the answers to most questions and what to do if you should find what you believe is an orphaned animal: http://rescuingwildlife.com/

Jeannie Carl is a naturalist at the Carbon County Environmental Education Center in Summit Hill. For information on the center, visit www.carboneec.org.

A baby fawn is one of many babies people may encounter this summer. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO