Abandoned young animals
Young animals "on their own" have rarely been abandoned
When spring arrives, nature is abuzz with young animals. Cute fawns, baby squirrels, tiny hedgehogs and chicks – but don’t interfere! Many baby animals die needlessly each year as people try to take care of them.
A lot of young animals are with their mothers for only short periods every day. Just because they are left on their own, it does not mean that they have been abandoned. This applies, for example, to hares, deer and owls. In the case of gulls, waders and thrush chicks, the parents will be nearby and will give a warning if the territory is invaded. Fox cubs and young squirrels stray a little but have not been abandoned. Mother deer leave their young and return a few times during the day, usually at dawn or dusk, so their offspring can suckle. Crows and thrushes leave their nests about a week before they are ready to fly, jumping around on the ground and being fed by their parents.
If you have taken a young animal home, you should put it back where you found it. The mother will take over again even if someone has touched her baby. But be patient – it can take a while.
Rearing a wild animal is very difficult. The wrong kind of food can have dire consequences. For instance, if a chick eats bread, it can stop its digestive system working. Nearly all birds feed on insects.
To care for wild animals in the home, knowledge and concern are not enough; the county administrative board needs to have recognised you as a wildlife rehabilitator and granted you permission. So if you find a young animal you really believe is abandoned, always get in touch with a wildlife rehabilitator. The Environmental Protection Agency will have a list of recognised wildlife rehabilitators in your area. It’s illegal to look after a wild animal for more than 48 hours if you are not a recognised wildlife rehabilitator.