When to leave an animal alone
It’s common to see wild baby animals outside during spring, as a new generation makes its way into the world. Wild baby animals might seem like they need our help, but unless the animal is truly orphaned or injured, there is no need to intervene.
Signs that a wild animal really needs your help.
If you see animals with any of the signs below, please contact SFWC immediately at
- Presented by cat or dog
- Evidence of bleeding
- An apparent or obvious broken limb
- Featherless or nearly featherless and on the ground
- A dead parent nearby
- Crying and wandering all day long
Capturing and Transporting an Injured Animal
Never handle an adult animal without first consulting a wildlife professional. Even small animals can injure you. Once you’ve contacted someone who can help, describe the animal and his physical condition as accurately as possible.
Unless you are told otherwise, here’s how you can make an animal more comfortable for transport while you’re waiting for help to arrive.
- Put the animal in a safe container. For most songbirds, use a cardboard box or similar container. First, punch holes for air (not while the animal is in the box!) from the inside out and line the box with an old T-shirt or other soft cloth. Then gently place the animal in the box.
- Put on thick gloves and cover the animal with a towel or pillowcase as you scoop him up gently and place him in the container.
- Do not give the animal food or water. It could be the wrong food and cause him to choke, trigger serious digestive problems or cause aspiration pneumonia. Many injured animals are in shock, and force-feeding can kill them.
- Place the container in a warm, dark, quiet place—away from pets, children and all noise (including the TV and the radio)—until you can transport the animal. Keep the container away from direct sunlight, air conditioning or heat.
- Transport the animal as soon as possible. Leave the radio off and keep talking to a minimum. Because wild animals aren’t accustomed to our voices, they can become very stressed by our noises. If they’re injured or orphaned, they’re already in a compromised condition. Keep their world dark and quiet to lower their stress level and help keep them alive.
A squirrel who is nearly full-sized, has a full and fluffy tail and can run, jump and climb is independent. However, if a juvenile squirrel continuously approaches and follows people, her mom is probably gone. In this case, you should contact a rehabilitator because the baby is very hungry and needs care.Read more
There are a few cases where you might need to intervene:
- A baby squirrel falls from a nest.
- A nest falls from a tree.
- A felled tree contains an intact nest.
If the baby and/or his nest fell from the tree today, give the mother squirrel a chance to reclaim her young and relocate him to a new nest. If the baby is uninjured, leave him where he is, leave the area, keep people and pets away and monitor him from a safe distance.
If it’s chilly outside or the baby isn’t fully furred, place him in a shoebox with something warm underneath (like a heating pad on a low setting or a hot water bottle). Be sure to put a towel between the baby and the heating device, or he could overheat. Do not cover him with anything or the mother might not be able to find him.
If the babies are not retrieved by dusk, take these steps:
- Wearing thick gloves, gather the squirrels and place them inside a thick, soft cloth, such as a cloth diaper or hand towel or hat.
- Place one of the following items beneath the cloth: a chemical hand warmer inside a sock, a hot water bottle (replace the hot water every 30 minutes) or a heating pad set on the lowest setting. (If the heating pad has no cover, put it inside two pillow cases so the babies don’t overheat.)
- Place the baby squirrels, cloth and warmer inside a small cardboard box or carrier. Call us at 954-524-4302.
Renesting Baby Squirrels
Baby squirrels often fall from their nests during storms or as they become larger than the area can compensate for. If you find a healthy baby squirrel on the ground, please give it a chance for the mother to come back and pick it up. If you care leave it there! Mammals such as gray squirrels form a very strong mother-young bond and given the opportunity, mothers will usually come back and pick up their babies if they can do so without human interference. It is imperative for humans to keep a distance from the baby and keep pets inside or leashed while in the area. Take a look around and see if you see an adult in the area. If you’re concerned with predation, the baby can be placed in a box or basket and fastened to the tree or structure it was found under. If you think the baby is orphaned or injured contact SFWC at (954) 524-4302 x10 for guidance.
Baby Bird Fell from the Nest
If the baby bird appears uninjured, and has NOT been in a cat’s mouth, put the baby bird back in the nest if you can. It’s a myth that the parents will abandon babies if they’ve been touched. If the original nest is unreachable or destroyed, secure a wicker basket (available at garden stores/supermarkets, but you may have one around the house) close to where the original nest was.Read more
Wicker and other stick-like baskets resemble natural nests and prevent the birds’ legs from becoming splayed while allowing rain to pass through so the birds don’t drown. However, an alternative nest will only work for older nestlings that are feathered (and can maintain body heat). Make sure the basket isn’t more than four inches deep—adult birds will not jump into something they can’t see out of. You should watch carefully for at least an hour to make sure that the parents return to feed their chicks—parent birds can be very secretive, so glue your eyes to that nest! And remember, fecal deposits are signs that the bird is being fed.
If the parent birds don’t return, contact SFWC.
Baby Bird Who Can’t Fly
If the bird is almost full-sized, fully feathered, but has short tail feathers, he’s a fledgling who left the nest before he could fly. This is normal. The bird will spend a number of days on the ground being fed by parents. Check whether whitish/gray-colored feces are on the ground around him. If so, that’s a sign that the parents are feeding him, since baby birds defecate after being fed. Monitor from a distance and you’ll usually see the parents return, but glue your eyes to the bird since they can be quick and secretive. Fledglings are very vulnerable at this stage, so it’s essential to keep all pets indoors during this period—especially cats.
Contact SFWC if the parents aren’t feeding the baby bird.
Opossum Seen on Lawn or in Tree
This is normal behavior, not cause for alarm. Opossums are normally seen at dawn and dusk, but can be seen anytime. They are not looking to attack or bother anyone; they are actually very gentle and harmless creatures (despite their scary looks!).Read more
Rabid Opossum Seen
Surprisingly, opossums rarely if ever get rabies. If the opossum is hissing, drooling, swaying and/or opening his mouth really wide (so you can see his 50 teeth!), he’s just doing a bluff routine to scare you (or a dog) off! What you’re seeing is normal defensive behavior. Go away or bring your dog in for a little while, and the opossum will leave once he/she realizes that the threat is gone.
Opossum Stuck in Fence or in Tree
Make sure the opossum is really stuck! If a dog has run him up a tree or onto a fence, he won’t move until the threat is long gone. If the opossum is truly stuck in a fence, contact SFWC at 954-524-4302.
Baby opossums stay in their mother’s pouch until they are three months old and the size of a mouse.
At this age, they ride on her back and sometimes fall off without mom noticing. If you have found a baby opossum smaller than 7 inches long (not including the tail), they are too young to be on their own, and you should contact SFWC. If their body length is longer than 7 inches (not including tail), then they’re big enough to survive on own.
Raccoons in the Garbage
Uncovered garbage cans provide an open invitation to hungry raccoons. Trash needs to be better contained to stop garbage raids. Some options include securing the trash lids with bungee cords, getting an Animal Stopper brand garbage can (equipped with a built-in locking mechanism), putting the garbage out the morning of trash pick-up or getting an outdoor storage container for trash cans from a home building store. Trapping won’t work to solve the problem because as long as there’s a food source, wild animals will keep coming to it.Read more
Raccoon Seen in Daytime
This is not necessarily cause for alarm. Raccoons are active by day when people leave out pet food or when the raccoons have hungry young to feed. Assess whether the raccoon is acting strangely—is she circling, dragging herself, acting injured, lethargic or unusually aggressive? If yes, then call SFWC at 954-524-4302 for assistance.
Raccoon Disoriented, Falling down, Circling or Showing Unprovoked Aggression
Call SFWC at 954-524-4302 for assistance.
Raccoons Eating Cat Food
It’s no wonder raccoons are responding to the free buffet. Who wouldn’t? The best solution is to make a practice of feeding cats indoors. If the cats must be fed outside, feed them only at a certain time in the morning or midday, and then quickly take away any uneaten food. The cats will get used to the new schedule and modify their behavior accordingly. Trapping the raccoons won’t help since other wild animals will continually be attracted to the cat food—and baby raccoons will be left behind to starve when and if their mothers are trapped.
Raccoon in Bird Feeder
There are effective squirrel baffles that also work to keep raccoons out. A good one is shaped like a stovepipe and placed on the pole portion of the bird feeder. This allows the raccoon to climb up the pole and into the closed pipe, but she can go no further. The pipe must be at least 24 inches long to prevent the raccoon from climbing over it and set at least four feet off the ground (to the bottom part of the baffle) to keep her from jumping over it.
Raccoons in Your Garage
If a raccoon recently wandered in through an open door, remove access to food (example: bird seed bags) or trash. Then open the garage door before dusk and sprinkle an 8-inch band of white flour under it—and watch for exiting footprints. Close the door once the raccoon is gone. If this problem occurs in spring or summer, and the garage door has been open for a longer period, it is most likely a mother with babies. She is likely to be in the rafters or on a high shelf with her cubs, and you don’t want to separate her from her babies. In this case, Either let them stay until they leave on their own (the kindest and best option), or call SFWC HWS at 954-524-4302 for assistance.
Renesting Baby Raccoons
The best chance for survival of baby raccoons is to ensure that they are able to stay with their mother. If baby raccoons are found alone and seem healthy, they should be left for an entire night in the place that they were found so that the mother has a chance to return and retrieve them – she is motivated to do so!Read more
To keep them safe, small babies may be placed in a cardboard box with holes cut into the top and a large flap cut into the side, which will keep the babies inside but allow the mother to push in, grab them, and take them to safety. If the raccoons are very young and the weather is dropping below 70 degree F and it is safe for you, place them inside the box on a heating pad set on a low temperature or put them on, or near, a chemical hot pack that is wrapped in linens or a sock. Do not place the box in direct sunlight.
Larger babies may be placed under an upside-down clothes basket with a medium-weight rock placed on top to keep the babies safely inside. The rock should be light enough to allow the mother to remove the rock and get to her babies. Do not place the basket in direct sunlight.
Always wear sturdy, protective gloves when handling raccoons, and if the babies are not retrieved by their mother by the following morning, please call SFWC right away for instructions (954-524-4302, ext. 10).