Ahhh….Spring! I am sure everyone is excited about this spring season, considering what this winter brought us! Spring brings sunshine, balmy weather, new growth and sweet baby animals!
Every spring Kingsbrook Animal Hospital receives calls from concerned individuals living in Frederick, MD that have found what are thought to be abandoned wildlife. Our instinct as caring people are to help these tiny creatures. Unfortunately, often what we consider to be helpful, can be detrimental to the baby creature’s life.
A mother rabbit covers her babies in the nest with grasses and returns only 2-3 times a day to nurse. Typically, nursing occurs at dusk and dawn. Because of this, people often make the mistake of assuming the babies have been abandoned. Usually this is not the case. If a nest is disrupted and the babies are not injured, it is best to replace the grassy covering and leave the nest alone. If you are worried the nest is abandoned, you can place 2 light twigs across the top of the nest. If the twigs have been disrupted overnight it means the mother has returned to the nest to care for her babies. Inadvertently touching the babies will NOT make the mother abandon them! Ways you can help is by keeping children, pets, lawn mowers and chemicals away from the nest.
Other creatures who are often mistaken for having been abandoned are baby birds. There are 2 kinds of birds: the kind born with fuzzy down feathers, and those born without feathers. Birds born with feathers, such as ducks, are fairly self sufficient soon after birth. The birds without feathers are much more dependent on their mother. These are the birds born in nests.
What many people are not aware of is that many kinds of birds, such as robins and blue jays, are unable to fly when they first leave their nest. These baby birds are called fledglings and can hop and flit. They live on the ground between 2-5 days old and their mother will still care for them. The best thing to do is leave a fledgling alone! If it is in an undesirable location such as the middle of the street it can be picked up and put in nearby shrubbery or a place it can hide from predators. Remember: the mother is close by so don’t move it far!
It is almost always best to leave wildlife alone. Unfortunately, sometimes baby wildlife is actually injured or abandoned. Do not attempt to treat or raise a baby yourself! In these cases ALWAYS call a wildlife rehabilitator. Trained and licensed wildlife rehabilitators are the only people that can legally treat injured or abandoned wildlife long term. Often animals that might otherwise be saved die unnecessarily because of treatment given by people trying to help. It is often difficult for the most knowledgable to save wild animals, so it is important to give them their best chance at survival.
If you are unable to contact a rehabilitator, and the animal is visibly injured, call Fredrick County Animal Control. Although the staff at Kingsbrook Animal Hospital are not trained to treat wildlife, we are ALWAYS here to assist you with any questions you may have.
Happy Spring from your friends at Kingsbrook Animal Hospital!