This is a busy time of year for wildlife rehabilitation center across the nation because of the number of babies of various species on the ground. Another factor in the increase is the well meaning Humans who find little ones ‘abandoned’ by mom but who are not truly left parentless, merely hidden from unwanted eyes.
I have a friend at a local wildlife center who remarked how frustrating it is to have someone bring in a fawn they found laying in the tall grass without a mama around. They had watched for a while but no one came to claim the baby so they thought it had been abandoned. Baby also didn’t get up when they approached so the people thought it must be injured and brought it in. Now my friend Jack is a real sweet guy and has the kind of patience that teeters on the ridiculous but he gets a sigh in his voice when he once again has to explain that mom left him in a particular spot so baby would be safe, she knows where he is, told him not to move until she came back and probably watched the whole event from the brush. And mama certainly isn’t going to show a human where she hid her baby by walking up to him when there was danger in the area. And now, sadly, baby is abandoned.
Of course, there was no malice intended. Many years ago I was one of these well intentioned do-gooders and received the same lecture from a rehabilitator who did not have as much patience as Jack, which turned me into a quivering mass of tears all the way home. It did leave a lasting impression though. (I learned to keep my hands off until I was very sure of abandonment.)
Rehabilitation centers also get a large number of fledglings that have fallen out of nests. What about that Jack?
Well, it seems the safest place for a fledgling is OUT of the nest. Nest are practically fast food for predators, a convenient package of helpless prey and easy to find because of the smell and the frequency of the parents’ visits.
There are times when we do need to step in if a life is to be saved, but more times than not we need to leave babies alone. And there are a number of things we can do to lessen the number of true abandonments.
Keep your cat indoors for the months of May and June to lessen the predator numbers. Do not trap (or live trap) rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks etc. during these months because many have nests of babies somewhere and even if a person ‘does the right thing’ by using relocation, they have condemned the babies to starvation or hypothermia even if a predator does not find them. If fledglings end up on the lawn, take pup for a walk instead of using the yard. Babies don’t really hang around very long- they’re usually all about moving for safety reasons so will probably be gone in the time it takes to go for a nice walk.
It’s good to lend a helping hand and if you are certain a baby has been left without a parent it is without question the right thing to do. Jack just asks that we just make sure the hand is needed.