Recently, my sister’s 10 year old neighbor boy brought her a baby Killdeer bird. He said he got it for her because she had told him she “liked cute things.” In her mixed emotional state, she told him that they needed to go immediately to the place that he found the baby bird and return it to its mother. Fortunately they found the mother bird, though in a frantic state, and baby and mother were reunited. Of course my sister and her neighbor didn’t realize at the time that it is illegal in Colorado to attempt to rehabilitate injured or orphaned wildlife without state and federal permits.
Normally the mother animal will not return if people or pets are present. Yet, the best chances for survival for the baby animal are with the mother. What should a person do when they find an orphaned or injured animal? The following are some guidelines provided by Healers of the Wild: People Who Care for Injured and Orphaned Wildlife.
If you can find the nest or den, place the baby back inside. Watch for the mother to return for 4 to 6 hours, but stay out of sight. If the mother does not return call a wildlife rehabilitator.
If the animal was attacked by a cat or dog, injured in other ways, or appears sick call a wildlife rehabilitator. To find a rehabilitator; contact a local animal shelter, wild bird store, animal control officer, State Division of Wildlife, US Fish and Wildlife Service or veterinarian. There is a network of people in the San Luis Valley who know how to help and will advise you when contacted. I discovered last summer during an injured Night Hawk rescue that it is illegal to take any wild animal across state lines. The animal must remain and be rehabilitated in Colorado.
To rescue a baby animal and prepare it to be transferred to a rehabilitator first find a container, like a cardboard box, and place a soft cloth on the bottom. Put on some gloves to protect yourself from bites, scratches or disease. Cover the animal lightly with a sheet or towel and gently pick it up and place it in the container. Keep the animal warm and in a quiet environment. Do not try to give it food or water, just leave it alone. Tape the box shut. Wash your hands and anything else that was in contact with the animal. Get to the wildlife rehabilitator as soon as possible.
If you find a baby animal don’t assume it is abandoned. It is normal for mothers to leave their baby’s to look for food. Mother rabbits for example, leave the nest until dusk. Try to observe the animal without the animal observing you. If, after careful observation, you decide the animal needs your help please follow the advice from the Healer of the Wild. And, good luck.