Short answer: Don’t take it and try to rehabilitate it yourself.
Saying that wildlife rehabilitation is difficult is an understatement. Treating and caring for injured animals requires years of training and vast resources. It is a full-time job in itself. By law, wildlife rehabilitators can’t provide the public with information on long term care for wild animals.
Remember that these are wild animals and do not make good pets. Animal diets vary widely and zoonotic diseases are a serious concern. Handing the animal over to a licensed rehabilitator is in the best interests of the animal.
State and federal law requires every rehabilitator to hold state and federal permits. You should ask your state’s department of natural resources or Fish & Wildlife Service for a list of licensed wildlife rehabilitators in your area.
Not all of the animals rehabilitators receive are in need of help. ‘Babynapping’ is a common problem in the spring and summer. Many people bring ‘abandoned’ animals that are in fact just learning to live on their own. If you find a young bird on the ground, discreetly observe it for about 30 minutes. Chances are that the bird’s parents aren’t far away.
The bird you’ve found may be learning to fly or forage. If the bird is only partially feathered and seems to be uninjured, try placing it back in the nest. Birds will not reject offspring that have been touched by people. Baby birds that are newly hatched and completely naked need immediate care. If you do not know where the nest is or if it is the correct nest, call the nearest wildlife rehabilitation expert.
In the meantime, it needs to be kept at about 95 degrees Farenheit. When you call, they can tell you how to keep it warm during transport to the Center. If the animal you find has any apparent signs of injury, place it in a well ventilated box with paper on the bottom. Keep the animal warm, quiet and away from children and pets.
Please do not offer the animal food or water without first talking with someone at the Center. Whenever you attempt to handle wildlife, remember that any animal that feels threatened will defend itself. Being handled is extremely stressful for wild animals, so minimize contact. Avoid making quick movements and loud noises. Please do not wait to contact a rehabilitator. The faster wildlife gets to the proper person, the better its chances of survival are.
Remember that wildlife rehabilitators MUST be licensed by the state for mammals and federal government to handle birds. You should call your state’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) or Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) for a list of licensed facilities in your state before taking an injured animal to a rehabilitator. In Maryland, you can call Maryland DNR at 1-877-463-6497.
It is ILLEGAL to care for most wild animals without a permit! Each year LCWC takes in a few animals that the public, with the best of intentions, has tried to raise. Unfortunately, many of these animals can never be released due to unintentionally inadequate care, improper diet, and being inappropriately habituated to humans.
If you see an animal that you think might have rabies, do not attempt to handle it. Call your local Animal Control office. In Frederick that number is (301)694-1544. Animals that can carry rabies are called rabies vector species (RVS). Foxes, raccoons, skunks and bats are all RVS animals. Under Maryland State law, these animals may only be handled by rehabilitators with an RVS permit.
You can call the Maryland DNR at 1-877-463-6497 for a listing of rehabilitators with RVS permits. LCWC does not accept RVS animals. It is possible that any adult wild mammal that is unafraid of humans may have rabies.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources publishes a series of books on how to feed and shelter wildlife. ‘Woodworking For Wildlife’ and ‘Landscaping For Wildlife’ are especially helpful. Minnesota DNR Publications Please remember that you should never trap, cage or handle wildlife, unless it’s injured. It’s unfair to the animals and it’s an easy way to put yourself in the hospital.
West Nile Virus is here to stay. Generally, the only way that the public could contract WNV is from the bite of an infected mosquito. All birds are susceptible and some mammals as well. Animals suffering from West Nile Virus (WNV) usually display varied symptoms. These can include emaciation, partial paralysis, termors, and the inability to stand up.
If you’ve found an animal that you think may have WNV please call your local vet or wildlife rehabilitator. More information on WNV is available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention web site. CDC Online
Discretely observe unattended young carefully for a period of time to determine if they are truly orphaned. Usually the parents will return. When baby birds “fledge” they often spend time on the ground or on a low perch.
This is a normal aspect of their development and as a general rule, does not require human intervention. Ensure only that the fledgling is in or near adequate cover, parents and the area is free of children and pets.