Springtime brings a host of new life into the outdoors. The fields, forest, and the nests and dens are full of new life and cute and cuddly baby critters as nature carries on procreation. Nature knows how to take care for her own, but unfortunately, there are always kind hearted individuals ready to step in and take over when they think there is a problem. Every spring, the “Good Samaritans” of the outdoors are often too quick to intercede when they come across a wildlife baby. Kind-hearted Hoosiers feel compelled to “rescue” what appears to be abandoned baby wild animals and take the little ones home to care for them.
In a word… don’t. In three words, Indiana’s DNR Division of Fish & Wildlife says. “Don’t do it!”
In early April, cottontail rabbits and squirrels have young in their nests. If you come across a nest, leave it alone, even if you don’t see an adult animal around. The best place for the animals is in the wild, learning to fend for themselves.
Unneeded wildlife adoptions most generally occur because individuals assume the baby was abandoned by its mother. Actually, the wildlife mother is most likely watching from a safe distance.
“Most baby animals are not abandoned,” said Michelle Cain, DNR wildlife information specialist. “Many animals leave their young alone when searching for food and come back to them throughout the day. They also use their periodic absence as a way to deter predators because a predator may follow the mother back to its young.”
Taking home a baby animal not orphaned or abandoned can harm the animal and removes it from its natural environment. It’s also illegal.
If you believe the animal is truly abandoned, or you know the mother is dead, call a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. Licensed wildlife rehabilitators are educated to properly care for wild animals. In the hands of an untrained person, an animal, even if successfully raised, is unlikely to survive if it is returned to the wild.