08 June 2011

How to determine if an 'abandoned' baby animal needs rehabilitation

It's a natural thing for animal lovers to want to help a baby animal if we think it's in danger. What we don't know, is that it's not always the best thing for the animal.

Lisa Fischer, head of Suburban Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Inc. in Mechanicsville, Maryland, takes in injured and abandoned birds and mammals. She got started eight years ago when her kids found an abandoned squirrel. But in some cases, the injured or abandoned animals that are brought to her should have never left the place they were found.

People need to be careful when determining if an animal needs rehabilitation, or if it should be left in the wild.

In May, Fischer received two fawns, from two different situations. The first was a fawn that was found next to a dead doe. Because it didn't have a mother, the fawn needed Fischer's care. Fischer will care for the fawn until September, and then she will release it back into the wild.

The second fawn was found alone in the woods, and the "rescuer" assumed the mother was not coming back for it. They would not tell Fischer where the fawn was found because they didn't want it returned to the wild, which would have actually been the better decision.

Fischer tube fed the fawn for one week, but the fawn died in six or seven days. Fischer explained to the Washington Post that, "had it been with Mom, quite frankly it probably would have made it."

Fischer explained that a mother deer leaves her fawn alone for eight to ten hours a day while it forages, because the fawn is not able to keep up with its mother. The fawn is safe on its own due to its camoflage color, and only if the fawn is injured, or has flies or maggots on it, a wildlife rehabber needs to be called.

The same goes for bunnies, who are only with their mothers during feeding time at dawn and dusk. Fischer suggests dropping some flour around the bunnie's nest to determine if they've been adabonded, and look for footprints later to see if the mother has come back for it. "Bunnies do so much better in the wild," Fischer said. "There's only a 10 percent survival rate with rehabbers."

As for baby birds, they are also fine on their own. Fischer explained how baby birds are on the ground for three days before they can actually fly. She also added, contrary to the popular myth, touching a bird's nest will not make its parents abandon it. "If you're concerned about a bird, simply put it back in its nest," Fischer said.

If your big heart gets the best of you, and you do find yourself caring for an abandoned or injured animal, before you can get it to proper rehabilitation, remember one thing: absolutely do not feed the animal cow's milk. It can kill the animal very quickly. If necessary, feed the animal Pedialyte, which will help with its dehydration.

Alexandra Hedin | Facebook | @Alexandra_Hedin
Alexandra is highly passionate about animals and animal rights, and wants to raise awareness of the cruelty that many animals suffer in the best way she knows how, and this is by written word. She is a recent graduate of Metropolitan State University in Minnesota, with a degree in Professional Writing and a minor in Creative Writing.

Photo credit:cc:flickr.com/photos/vastateparksstaff