The mother will often retrieve uninjured young if a nest is inadvertently disturbed. Squirrels keep backup nests, but it’s important to give mom time to relocate the young. Keep pets and children indoors and watch from a distance for her to return. Don’t feed the babies. They cry when they are hungry and those sounds can bring mom to the rescue.
Nests are often disturbed in spring when homeowners trim trees. Squirrels typically mate twice a year and have their young around January/February and July/August. Check for active nests before cutting trees.
Fawns are another animal susceptible to kidnapping by well-meaning rescuers. The mother spends most of the day away from the fawn to avoid leading predators back to the young animal. Fawns that appear healthy but alone, should be left alone.
Healthy fawns may also be found in exposed areas, such as a roadside that has been warmed by the sun. If you find a fawn in an area where it appears to be in immediate danger, gently herd it out of harm’s way, but please don’t remove it from the area.
If you find a baby wandering along a fence line, it may have been separated from its mother when she jumped the fence. If possible, lift the fawn over the fence and encourage it to lie down by tapping its back.
Never feed a fawn, or other baby wild animals.
Juvenile cottontails are frequently the victims of well-meaning rescuers who kidnap them from the wild.
Rabbits build their nests in a shallow scrape on top of the ground. The nests are vulnerable to attacks by pets or accidents involving yardwork.
Mother rabbits feed their young only twice a day, staying away from the nest so they don’t lead predators to their young.
To see if the mother is returning to feed, place strings in a tic-tac-toe shape over the nest so you can see if they’ve been disturbed in the morning. If no rain is forecast, use baking flour to create a circle around the nest and a tic-tac-toe design over it. Do not remove babies from the nest without talking to a wildlife rehabber.
A rabbit with its eyes open and no visible injuries does not need rescued.
When young rabbits begin exploring their world, they often “freeze” when frightened. That’s an effective strategy for eluding a hawk, but it’s not nearly as effective for eluding capture by a concerned human. Rabbits this age are still being care for by their parents, so please don’t touch.
Young cottontails have a low survival rate in rehabilitation, largely because they need the nourishment that only their mother can provide.
Opossums are often orphaned when their mother is hit by a vehicle. Opossums have poor eyesight and are often drawn to the edge of roads by trash thrown from vehicles.
Opossums are born after an 11-13 day gestation period. The sightless, hairless babies then crawl into the mother’s pouch where they finish their development. Very young opossums – those that have no fur and are about the size of a finger – are not viable.
Young opossums stay in the mother’s pouch until it becomes too crowded, then they ride on her back. If one falls off during her travels, she won’t retrieve it. An opossum whose body, excluding the tail, is less than 7 inches, should be taken into rehab.
Any chipmunk that appears healthy, runs and climbs well and avoids people should be left alone. Baby chipmunks with eyes sealed remain in the den. If one is found outside the den, it needs to be assessed by a wildlife rehabilitator.