Found Injured or Orphaned Wildlife?
Can you help me take care of it myself?
The short answer is no. State if not federal laws protect most of our birds and mammals. All of our predator birds are protected. This protection includes but is not limited to harassment, physical bodily injury and death.
It is illegal, again at the state level for most mammals and the federal level for most birds to physically interact with wildlife without the proper permits or licenses. Even wildlife that is legal to hunt, require a license and are protected out of season.
If you have a problem with a wild animal or bird, or have a question, the Wildlife Center of Texas has the necessary permits and work under the auspices of a state and federally recognized wildlife organizations.
Baby animals in general
The most important thing to do if you find a baby wild animal is to make sure it truly is an orphan!! Wild animals are extremely good parents and many times well meaning rescuers pick up and whisk away healthy youngsters while their parents watch. This is especially true of fawn, baby rabbit and fledgling birds.
If a young animal is truly orphaned or injured, it needs prompt attention. Call the Wildlife Center of Texas 713-861-WILD as soon as possible. If it is after hours, there is supportive care that can be given until the animal can be transported to the Wildlife Center. Scroll down to find your animal for species specific care.
Unless the baby is wet, cold, injured, covered with ants, fly eggs, maggots or is very weak simply observe it at a distance for a time. The baby needs to be kept warm, do not bring the baby into the air conditioning unless you place it in a box, on a heating pad set on LOW. DO NOT FEED OR WATER THE ANIMAL! Great harm can come to an animal that is fed the wrong food, at the wrong time or in the wrong way.
Hypothermia (becoming too cold) is life threatening, quick action should be taken to warm the animal. Almost all wildlife, with the notable exception of the opossum, have internal temperatures that are higher than ours and because of their small body mass chill easily.
Put the baby in a box or animal carrier that is large enough for it to stand up and move around a little bit. If a heating pad (set on low) is not available, dry uncooked rice can be placed in a sock and heated for 30 – 45 seconds in a microwave. When using an external heat source, check the animal frequently to prevent overheating. Place the animal in a quiet warm place.
If the animal is being kept outdoors, it needs to be in the shade. Keeping it in a closed garage or screened in porch will prevent flies from laying eggs on it.
Nestling birds have little to no feathers and still need a parent’s body temperature to keep warm. Often the baby can be put back into the nest or into a hanging basket or bucket to protect them from dogs and cats and the parent will continue to bring food to the baby.
Don’t forget to put holes in the bottom of the container to prevent drowning should it rain. It is NOT true that the parent will abandon the baby if touched by humans – birds will not reject the nestling or fledgling even if they see it being handled by a rescuer. Be sure to monitor the baby, if Mom doesn’t return or the baby appears to become weak, get help quickly.
Fledgling birds have short stubby wing and tail feathers and are beginning to look like the parents. They spend hours or days on the ground while learning to fly and are supplemented with food from their parents. This is normal especially with mockingbirds and blue jays. If the baby has wing feathers and a stubby tail, it’s supposed to be on the ground learning to fly. Place it in a tall bush or small tree and keep pets away from the area.
Look for injuries such as a broken wing or leg – symmetry is a wonderful thing, you don’t have to know bird anatomy to know that one wing is being held dramatically different than the other. Also look for the presence of fly eggs or maggots. Fly eggs look like clumps of small yellow rice grains. The whole body should be checked for fly eggs since they will be laid on any broken skin or body opening (eyes, ear, nose or cloaca).
Birds that live in colonies
Purple Martins and other birds that live in houses can be infested with mites, especially if the house hasn’t been thoroughly cleaned the previous winter. If babies repeatedly jump out of the house before they are physically ready, the problem could be mites. Be very careful with your selection of insecticide, 1% rotenone powder or pyrethrin spray are known to be safe for wild birds. Sevin dust is also safe when used in the small amounts as specified on the label.
Young mammals may appear lost and alone while they explore or wait for parents to return from foraging for food nearby. This is especially true for deer and rabbits who intentionally do not remain with their baby(ies) during the day. Each time the mom returns from foraging, she leaves another scent trail that could potentially lead a predator to the nest. So, as the baby gets older and can go longer between nursing, she spends more and more time nearby, but not with her offspring.
Nocturnal animals out during the day
Nocturnal doesn’t mean that the animal only comes out at night. Unless there are other odd behaviors, the animal is probably just fine. While nocturnal animals are usually shy and elusive, this does not mean that the animal will not exhibit curiosity about our activities.
All omnivores and carnivores, furred and feathered will exhibit curiosity about changes in their environment. Hanging out at the edge of the light, sitting on the top of the fence or in the case of raccoons, peering into windows is not and should not be considered aggressive behavior.
However, if you discover an adult wild animal that is easily approachable or appears “tame” or “friendly”, it has a SERIOUS problem. Do not mistake this presentation as “friendly” – extreme caution should be used! Wearing protective gloves, throw a blanket or towel over the animal and gently push the animal into a cardboard box, cover and tape the box closed. . Call the Wildlife Center of Texas 713-861-WILD as soon as possible. If you suspect distemper or rabies, your local Animal Control should be contacted. DO NOT FEED OR WATER THE ANIMAL!