Nature Lovers and Baby Animals: A Tough Summer Lesson
By Jennifer Cummings, M.Ed. – Spring and summer are wonderful times of the year for baby animals. It a time when all creatures in nature are enjoying the benefits of warm weather and plentiful food sources to grow healthy families.
Baby birds are one of the most commonly encountered kinds of wild critters that outdoor lovers come across. The life of baby birds is often difficult, and there are many ways that a baby bird can find itself in a human’s path. Being knocked out of a nest, attacked by predators, or even abandoned by its own parents, few things look as heartbreaking as a baby bird left on its own. But, like with most things in nature, it is often best to leave these little guys well enough alone. Some birds that are close to flying can make a living for a few days on the ground. Others have parents who will continue to feed the baby, even if it’s out of the nest. Other times, there is little anyone can do except let nature take it’s own course.
Baby Animals: Birds, Bunnies and Squirrels
But if there is some reason that you must be involved with a baby bird, know that it is very difficult to adequately care for a baby bird of almost any species. Young birds have specific requirements, depending on what species it is, its injuries, and how old it is. The best thing that a caring human can do is get in touch with a local bird rehabilitator or veterinarian. These experts have training in how to provide the best care possible for young birds. Even many veterinarians do not have the specialized training required to care for wild birds, so you may need to contact a few vets in your area before getting the information you need.
Baby bunnies and squirrels, too, are frequently found by humans who love to spend time outside. Many times the family pet will either find a nest or a baby too far from its home, and you will be the unwilling benefactor of their ‘gift’. Like baby birds, baby bunnies and squirrels require specialized care to have any chance at survival. If your pet has found a nest, keep them away from the nest until your careful checking determines the nest is no longer inhabited; this may take from a few hours, days or even a week or more. Try not to disturb the nest any more than necessary, as excessive human activity can drive the parents away permanently. But overall, remember that there are many animal babies that don’t make it to adulthood every year, and you are unfortunately witnessing nature in action.
If you have a baby bunny or squirrel in your care for some reason, call your local nature center, state wildlife department, animal removal service, or veterinarian to obtain the best advice for its care. The Internet is great for many things, but care of wild animals is best left to professionals with expertise and training. Even though everyone has seen stories of families that raise baby animals to be wonderful family companions, there are many more stories that end badly when a family is not prepared for the requirements of caring for a wild animal.
Regardless of whether you find a bird, bunny, raccoon, or other animal, it is improtant not to handle the animal more than is necessary, and certainly never let children handle the wild animal. Animals can carry parasites and diseases that are dangerous for humans and can make kids sick. Also, kids can be too rough with fragile babies and can do damage without meaning to. It’s also important to keep the family pet away from these animals, too. Remember that in addition to cats’ natural hunting instincts, many favorite American family dogs have a genetic prepdisposition to hunting smaller animals, so they may not be able to stay away from a baby animal in their territory, even if they are usually a perfect family pet.
Also, remember that where you find baby animals, their parents are sure to be around, too. Many animals are extremely protective of thier young and their homes. Even animals that are generally not aggressive toward humans may have a strong instinct to defend their territory, leading to harassment or attacks against the human invader. If you find yourself in the territory of an animal and hear growling, hissing, or other noises which indicate an agitated animal is present, back away slowly from the noise and leave the area; don’t look around for the source of the noise, as you may not get a welcome reception if you do find the animal. Birds, too, can defend their nests by divebombing unwelcome visitors and driving them away. You certainly don’t want to be on the receiving end of an angry mother bird.
Seeing baby animals in peril can be a difficult sight, especially for children. However, getting involved without the proper advice, gear, or training can be dangerous for the animal, your pet, or your family, and in some instances, may actually be against federal, state or local laws. Though a difficult lesson to learn, sometimes it’s better to let Mother Nature take care of her creatures, even when the choice is a tough one. By letting nature take it’s own course, it helps to keep the Earth Positively Green.