FAQs

Here is more very important information concerning injured or orphaned wildlife:

The Truth About Wildlife:

Some animal babies may appear to be abandoned, but the animal parents may actually be close by, staying out of sight to avoid attracting attention to their young. Animal parents may also be out gathering food for the young and will return soon.

Many hatchling or nestling baby birds (those that are featherless or incompletely feathered), can be returned to the nest. Birds have a poor sense of smell. If humans touch a baby bird or nest it does not cause the parents to abandon the birds.

After a fledgling (a fully feathered young bird) leaves the nest it may live on the ground for up to two weeks. During this time the parents still provide food and protection.

The maternal instinct is also very strong in most mammal species. Mammal mothers do not willingly abandon their babies. If the mother is alive, she will, in most case, return and claim her young.

Help Keep Wildlife Safe:

Take responsibility for your pets.  Domestic cats are not natural predators for wildlife.  To help prevent your cat or dog from hunting birds and other wildlife:

  • Keep your cat indoors.
  • If you must let your cat outside, be aware of when the birds are most active in your yard and avoid letting the cat out during that time.
  • If you have an outside cat, remove bird feeders from your yard so as not to attract the birds to certain death.
  • Keep your dog in a fenced yard, on a leash or under voice command when it is outside.

WORDS OF CAUTION

Injured or orphaned animals are often found by children.  It’s very important that children know to never touch a wild animal that they have found.  They should always ask for help from an adult.  Wild animals in distress will BITE!  That’s their only defense when they are scared, injured, or both.  If a wild animal bites you or a child, it may need to be euthanized and tested for diseases such as rabies.

Emergency Care Instructions

Because state and federal regulations prohibit unlicensed individuals from caring for wildlife, we are not able to give out feeding instructions.  However, we can offer emergency instructions until you are able to get the animal to a wildlife rehabilitator.

Please handle any injured/orphaned animal that you have found with care. Over handling an animal can lead to stress-related death.  Since wild animals can have communicable diseases, you should always wear gloves and wash your hands thoroughly after any contact with the animal.  If the animal bites you, it may need to be euthanized and checked for disease.

If you have found an injured animal please follow these instructions:

  • Prepare a cardboard box or pet carrier by placing a towel or rags inside. Please make sure there are no loose threads or strings on the towels or rags as the animal may get caught and further injure or kill itself.  The box should only be large enough for the animal to rest comfortably in, but not so large that it can thrash around and cause further damage. Make sure there is adequate ventilation.
  • Wear heavy gloves to prevent risk of injury or transfer of diseases.
  • If the animal is small and not attempting to bite, scratch, or puncture you with talons, pick it up and place it in the container.
  • If the animal is large or attempting to do any of the above, gently use a broom or similar item to scoot it into the container. For larger birds, you can also try to throw a sheet or blanket over it and slide it into the box.
  • Make sure that the transport container is secure.  The animal that you thought was in a coma can quickly regain consciousness.  Many animals can squeeze through the smallest of gaps and can push or pull with great strength when scared.  Some animals such as chipmunks or squirrels can chew through cardboard.  Loose animals in cars can be a dangerous situation.
  • Place the container in a warm, dark, quiet place away from people and pets to reduce its stress until you are able to get it to a local wildlife rehabilitator.
  • Keep the animal warm by placing a heating pad on the LOW setting under only HALF of the animal’s box or carrier.

BABY BIRDS

*Young wild animals have very specific nutritional requirements, and even a few days of an inadequate diet can cause irreversible damage to their bones, fur or feathers.

The instructions below will help you determine if the baby bird can be reunited with the mother.

If you have found a baby bird that is not fully feathered, look directly up and see if you can locate the nest. Then make every effort to place it back in the nest. The parents will not abandon the baby if you have touched it or the nest. Birds (except for vultures) do not have a highly developed sense of smell and do not care that you have touched the babies.

The parents can come and go very quickly when feeding their young, so you must be very diligent in watching the nest.  The best clue as to whether or not the babies are still being cared for by their parents is the appearance of the babies.  If their eyes are bright and shiny, and they appear alert, then the parents are still feeding them.

If the nest cannot be located or if it is too high:

Try fastening a small basket lined with dried grass in the tree as far up as possible. If you use something like a margarine tub, make sure you have poked some small holes in the bottom so that rainwater can drain out.  Place the nestling in the basket and watch diligently from a distance to see if a parent comes to feed it.  If the parents do not return within 2 hours, or before it gets dark, you will need to bring the baby inside and call a wildlife rehabilitator.

If you find a baby bird that is fully feathered but cannot seem to fly, it is a fledgling. This bird is learning to fly and the parents will continue to feed it and teach it to forage for food while it is learning to fly.  This is true of all bird species, including songbirds, hawks and owls.  After they are out of the nest, birds learn to fly from the ground up into low branches.  Parents will guide the fledglings into the bushes at night to hide from predators.  If possible keep your dogs and cats restrained for the few days it takes for the fledglings to learn to fly well enough to get out of harm’s way.

If you found the bird in a high-traffic area, move it to a safe area under the cover of bushes.  Parents communicate with their young by a series of voice calls.  As long as a fledgling is placed in its home territory, the parents will be able to locate it and move it to a safe location.  At a distance, (indoors is best) watch continuously for one hour for the parents to return.  If the parents don’t return, then the bird needs to be taken to a wildlife rehabilitator.

If the bird you have found is truly orphaned or is injured, it will need assistance.   Please follow these instructions:

  • Place the bird in a small box lined with soft rags. Close the lid and keep the bird in a warm, quiet place. You can make a nest out of a small margarine tub lined with Kleenex or soft towels.
  • Set the box on a heating pad set on LOW (under the entire box if the bird has no feathers, under half of the box if the bird has feathers).
  • Do not put the bird in a birdcage. This can cause too much stress and damage the feathers.

Do not attempt to give the bird any food or water.   The hole to their lungs is in the middle of their tongue and you can easily injure the bird by trying to feed it.  Contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator for further instructions.

A special note about hummingbirds:

If you find an injured or orphaned hummingbird on the ground:

Lift it along with the material it is sitting on, and place it on crumpled tissue in a shoebox with holes in the lid. Always use tissue or paper towels, NOT cloth—the bird’s feet may become entangled in the cloth.

Call LouAnn Partington at 931-393-4835 immediately. Hummingbirds have very high metabolisms and can quickly go into shock without food.  Hummingbird babies that are fed sugar water or commercial hummingbird nectar for more than 24 hours may develop crippling deformities.

Young hummingbirds secure themselves to the nest by weaving their tiny toes around the nest fabric. So firm is their hold that if lifted from the nest, most often the legs are left behind.  Never attempt to remove baby hummingbirds from their nest

COTTONTAIL RABBITS

Mother rabbits do not abandon their babies under normal circumstances.  She only feeds her babies once or twice during a 24-hour period, usually between dusk and dawn.  You may never see her return to the nest.  If the babies’ eyes are still closed, they are under 10 days old.  If they look plump and are nestled snuggly next to each other, and do not appear to be in any immediate danger, leave them alone!  You can check to see if the mother is coming back to the nest by checking the babies’ bellies, first thing in the morning.  They should be round, full, and fat.

Keep your dogs and cats away from the area and the baby cottontails will be ready to leave the nest in 3-4 weeks of age.

If the nest has been disturbed, even by the lawnmower, just put all the babies and the bedding back in place. The mother will not mind at all.

If you find a small rabbit hopping around that appears to be too young to be on its own, remember that if it is as big as a tennis ball and can run away from you-it does not need your help.

If you determine that the babies are injured or in need of assistance:

Place them in a small box lined with soft rags. Baby cottontails are incredibly fragile and do not take handling by humans well. They will die of stress if handled improperly.

Place the box in a warm place away from children, household noise, domestic pets, and bright lights. It may be helpful to place a heating pad on LOW under HALF of its box or carrier.

Do not attempt to feed any type of formula to a baby rabbit! They have very sensitive digestive systems and can rapidly develop diarrhea and die.

Contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator:

SQUIRRELS

If you find an infant squirrel that has fallen from its nest and is not injured:

Watch and see if the mother comes for it (mother squirrels do not voluntarily abandon their babies)  This can best be done by remaining indoors where your presence will not frighten the mother.  It is fine if the baby vocalizes or cries out, as this will help the mother locate it.

Place the squirrel in a small open basket or box and affix to the nest tree by wedging it in or with another method such as Velcro, tape, string or wire and then watch.

If predator (cat or dog) is present and you cannot deter it, try again when predator is gone (you may want to expedite this process with a good, abrasive SCAT!).

Do not leave the baby outside if the weather is bad.

Do not leave the baby outside overnight.  If the mother doesn’t come back by dark, try again first thing in the morning.

If the mother does not return for her baby within 2 to 3 hours:

  • Place the baby in a box lined with soft rags and keep it in a warm, dark, quiet place.
  • Set a heating pad on LOW and place HALF of the box on top of it.
  • Do not attempt to give the orphan any food or water.
  • Do not, under any circumstances, attempt to feed it human or domestic animal milk. Baby squirrels require a specialized diet and can develop fatal problems from being fed an incorrect formula.

Contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator.

WHITE-TAILED DEER FAWNS

If the fawn you have found is uninjured, please read the following information carefully before intervening:

Mother deer (does) spend much of the daytime away from their young.  They return every 3-4 hours to feed and clean their infants before leaving once again.  Young fawns have little scent and spend most of the first two weeks of their life inactive-except while nursing.  By one month of age, most fawns begin to venture out to browse with their mothers.

If you have found a fawn that appears to be abandoned:

Keep dogs and people away.

Allow the fawn to remain, undisturbed, for at least 12 hours before intervening, unless it is crying or trying to follow you.  Fawns will generally wait quietly for their mothers to return, so a fawn that is vocal is generally in need of help.

If you have already moved the fawn, return it to the exact spot where you found it. The doe will not abandon the baby because you have touched it

If the fawn is injured or you know the mother to be dead, human intervention will be needed.

  • Place old towels or rags in a cardboard box or dog crate and put the fawn inside.
  • Move it to a warm, quiet, dark place to reduce its stress. Keep it away from people and pets.
  • Do not give the fawn milk or any type of formula mixture. This can cause fatal diarrhea.
  • Do not attempt to give the fawn any food or water until you have talked to a rehabilitator

OPOSSUMS

Young opossums sometimes become separated from their mothers. If its body is more than 8 inches long, not including the tail, it is old enough to be on its own. If it is smaller than this it will need assistance.

If you have found a baby opossum or young opossums with no mother or if you know the mother to be dead, do the following:

  •  It is critical that the young opossums be kept warm. If you have a heating pad, turn it on the LOW setting and place half of the box on top of the pad.
  • Place the opossums in a box lined with soft rags and close the lid. They are very good climbers.  Make certain that the lid is secure.
  • Even small opossums can bite and have many sharp teeth. Use care when handling.
  • Do not attempt to give any food or water.
  • Place the box in a warm, dark quiet area away from people and pets.

LOCAL REHABILITATORS

All species (except raccoons, foxes and fawns) – LouAnn Partington, Certified Wildlife Rehabilitator 931-393-4835

Small mammals and fawns under 8 lbs. – Angela Hensley, 615-631-2205

All species (including deer, raccoons and foxes) – Walden’s Puddle Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, 615-299-9938.

If you live outside of the Middle Tennessee area, you can locate the wildlife rehabilitator nearest you by checking the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency website at www.tn.gov/twra/wildliferehab.html.

You may also locate a wildlife rehabilitator through:

National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association (nwrawildlife.org)

International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council (theiwrc.org)