If You Care, Leave It There

provided by Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife

A young skunk was admitted to CROW after being found without its mother.

Every year wildlife hospitals, like the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW) on Sanibel, are flooded with young animals that are abducted away from their parents by well-intentioned people who believe these babies to be orphaned. In fact, wild animals are very devoted to the care of their young and human interference is rarely warranted.

While it is possible that a mother might be unable to return to a nest due to illness, injury, or death; it is more likely that she is just away foraging for food and will return in due course, according to the natural biology for the species.

For example, a mother rabbit will only return to nurse her bunnies for a few minutes at dawn or dusk, at a time when she is unlikely to be observed by predators (or humans). The rest of the time she stays away from the nest because her natural scent may attract predators to the unscented bunnies and because she is busy foraging for food. Young bunnies leave the nest at approximately three weeks of age, so even a very small rabbit may be self-sufficient.

In the case of most songbirds, both parents caretake. So, even if one of the adults is no longer able to care for the young, the other may be able to carry on successfully. It is a myth that a baby bird that has been touched by humans will be rejected by the parents. A baby that has been displaced can often be returned to the nest and the parents will resume care.

If you see something clearly wrong, like a fallen nest or an obvious injury, please contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator, like CROW, for advice on the next steps. In most cases, a fallen nest can be replaced into a tree or nearby bushes, but an injured animal needs medical attention. Baby animals require specialized care and should be taken to a licensed rehabilitator.

If the nest itself is missing or damaged, an artificial nest may be created. CROW has had excellent success in re-nesting young animals. In fact, a research study at CROW showed an 88% success rate (defined as the young being re-nested and later fledging normally) in raptors over a three-year period.

A young animal should only be removed from the wild after all efforts to reunite it with the parent(s) have been exhausted. Remember, humans are NEVER a young animal’s best hope for survival; they are its last hope.

In certain cases, bringing an orphaned animal to CROW is warranted. Recently, a young striped skunk was admitted to CROW after being found without its mother. After the finder called CROW and observed the young skunk for some time, it was determined that it truly was an orphan and was not likely to survive on its own.

When it arrived to the wildlife hospital, veterinarians checked it over and found it to be in fairly good health. It is currently being monitored closely to ensure it is eating well and will be raised in the safety of a rehabilitation enclosure until it is old enough to survive on its own.

If you find a baby animal and are concerned it may need help, please call us at CROW at 239-472-3644 before trying to help. We will be happy to give you some tips on how to determine if a young animal may be truly orphaned and in need of help, or if Mother Nature has the situation under control.

THIS WEEK AT CROW (12/2-12/8):
There were 83 new patients admitted to CROW’s Wildlife Hospital including 19 eastern cottontail rabbits, seven double-crested cormorants, four laughing gulls, two broad-winged hawks, a barred owl, a glossy ibis and a ruby-throated hummingbird. Recent Releases include seven double-crested cormorants, a gopher tortoise, a Florida box turtle, a blue jay and a barn owl. Check out a full list of CROW’s current patients and recent releases!

Wildlife doesn’t have health insurance! Your donations help cover the costs of medical and rehabilitative care for over 5,000 patients admitted to CROW’s Wildlife Hospital each year!

Want to learn more about wildlife rehabilitation? Stop by CROW’s Visitor Education Center at 3883 Sanibel Captiva Road.

About Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW)
Established in 1968, the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW) is a teaching hospital saving the sick, injured and orphaned native and migratory wildlife of Southwest Florida and beyond.  Through state-of-the-art veterinary care, public education programs and an engaging visitor center, CROW works to improve the health of the environment, humans and our animals through wildlife medicine. For more information, or to plan your visit, go to http://www.crowclinic.org. If you find an animal that is in need of help, call (239) 472-3644 ext. #222.

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