Sara Swanson

Humane Society of Huron Valley reminders on what to do when you find baby wild animals

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This baby raccoon is just one of 450 wild animals Huron Valley Human Society has helped this year. Photo courtesy of Huron Valley Human Society.

In light of the recent calls on social media to find places to take a fawn injured in the Village and a hawk injured north of the Village, here are some tips from the experts at Humane Society of Huron Valley (HSHV).

First, you should know that it’s normal for wild animals to leave their babies in what they deem, a “safe” spot for hours and hours—even all day—while they forage for food. If you don’t believe they’re injured, it’s best to just leave them alone and monitor from afar to see if an adult returns. If you place a few light twigs in an “X” over the nest or sprinkle cornstarch around it, the next day, you can see whether there are footprints or the twigs have been moved.

“If they look warm and fed, they are most likely not abandoned,” says Smith. “But if they are wandering, vocalizing, or cold to the touch, they are most likely abandoned and in need of help.”

Baby birds are learning to fly now, too—prompting some compassionate people to worry when they see babies flailing about. Chances are, they’re okay. But if you’re worried, you can gently place them back in their nest. It’s a myth that touching baby birds will deter the adults. But do fight that urge to feed them.

“Despite people’s best intentions, unless it’s a kitten, giving an orphaned wild animal milk, water or food can often do more harm than good,” Smith says. “If the animal appears to be an abandoned baby in immediate danger, and it’s safe for you to do so, place the animal in a dark, warm, quiet place while you wait for professional advice.”

Residents may also see young fawns alone, out in the open, and seemingly abandoned. But a lone fawn who is not walking is not necessarily orphaned or sick and may not need rescuing.

“There are countless tragic cases of ‘fawn kidnapping’ by those who mistakenly believe they are helping. In most cases, they should just be left alone. Mother deer leave their babies for most of the day so as not to attract predators, returning only at dusk and dawn for feeding,” says Tanya Hilgendorf, HSHV’s CEO and President. “However, if you believe a mother has been hit by a car and is not returning to provide care, please call HSHV’s rescue line for assistance.”

Whether injured or not, it is important to keep baby animals warm. Being in a warm, dark, quiet place can help animals that are in shock. A warm water bottle, heating pad or even warmed up, uncooked rice in a sock can do the trick. Just be sure to put the heat source to one side so that the animal can get away from it if it gets too warm, and place a barrier like a paper towel or a cloth towel over the source so that it doesn’t touch the animal directly.

If you find sick, injured or abandoned wildlife in Washtenaw County, call HSHV’s rescue hotline, funded solely by private donations: (734) 661-3512. All messages will be returned.

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