What You Need to Know Before You Rescue

For most people spring means flowers, birds, and at least a little more sunshine. Here at PAWS Wildlife Center it means "baby season." These are babies from dozens of different wildlife species; each brought to us by concerned members of the public who went out of their way to help. But rescuing an animal you think may be in danger is not always the right move.

As you go about your daily life this spring, chances are good that you'll encounter a young wild animal who you feel may be in need of help. Infant and juvenile wild animals often appear fragile or awkward, and it can be difficult to differentiate between a healthy baby who is just learning the ropes and an imperiled youngster who could use a hand. The choice of whether to intervene in the life of a young wild animal is a serious one and, although we may fear that the animal will suffer if we do not act, intervening when it is not warranted may be just as bad.

The following tips will help you make an informed decision about intervention should you encounter a wild baby this spring.

  • Many wild animals leave their babies alone for long periods and return only at meal times. For example, deer and cottontail rabbits may visit their young only twice a day. "Alone" does not equal "abandoned."
  • Young birds often leave the nest before they are truly ready to fly. They may spend several days to a week or more hopping on the ground or in low shrubs, making increasingly longer flights until they become profi cient flyers. Their parents continue to care for them during this time.
  • If an infant bird falls from a nest and is uninjured, you can gently pick him up and place him back in the nest. It is a myth that the parents will abandon their young if a human touches them.
  • Signs that an animal truly needs help include: a dead parent or sibling is nearby, the animal is listless and cold, the animal has been attacked by a cat or dog, or the animal is actively bleeding.

If you encounter a wild animal who appears to need assistance, please call the PAWS Wildlife Center at 425.412.4040. We will be able to answer your questions and provide guidance to help you choose the best course of action.

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