ELi on Earth: What do I do if I Find a Wild Baby Animal?

Friday, June 8, 2018, 8:27 am
By: 
Paige Filice

Spring is in the air, and with that comes flowers, sunshine and a plethora of cute and fuzzy baby animals. When seeing a baby animal, especially with no mother in sight, it can be hard to resist the urge to do something like feed and shelter it. But it’s almost always better to leave it in the wild and to keep pets and children away.

It is very common for animals to leave their young in a nest during the day to forage for food. In all likelihood, the baby animal that you found is not abandoned at all, but is safely hidden by its mother.

Animals commonly found in East Lansing

Rabbits
Wild rabbits are born blind and naked, and usually open their eyes five days after they are born. They leave the nest after about two weeks. Wild rabbits only nurse their young for approximately five minutes a day in the early morning or evening, so it is common to believe nests are abandoned. And while it may seem like the mother is inexperienced because her nest is in plain sight, the location is intentional. Rabbits do not sit on their nests like some other mammals or birds. Instead they utilize fur, tall grasses and a sunny location to keep their young warm between feedings.

Raccoons
Raccoons usually have young in April and May and although adorable, they can be aggressive as they get older. Do not be alarmed if you spot a baby raccoon during the day. It is very common for a litter of raccoons to stray from their nocturnal mother during the day while she catches up on sleep. In fact, raccoons do not typically become nocturnal until after they are a year old.

Birds
Baby birds sometimes fall from their nest when they are learning to fly, but their parents typically continue to feed and care for them even when they are on the ground. Birds will not abandon their young if you touch them, but if you move a baby bird the parents may be unable to relocate it. Birds and their nests and eggs are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and should be left alone.

Ducks & Geese
Mallards are the most common duck found in East Lansing and while your neighborhood may not seem like an ideal location for a nest, urban yards are surprisingly safe places. If you have a mallard nesting in your shrub or garden, keep pets and children away and enjoy the company. Eggs take a month to hatch, and new ducklings typically leave the nest the same day they hatch. Even if you do not think water is nearby, the mother knows where it is and will get her brood to safety.

Geese are similar to mallards and will lead their young to water soon after hatching. Adult geese can be highly protective of their nests and young, and will chase people and pets away by hissing, running, and flying. It is best to avoid areas with goslings during nesting season.

Fawns
White-tailed deer have fawns in May and June and it is not uncommon for them to leave fawns unattended for over eight hours a day, sometimes in yards. Fawns have white spots that are excellent camouflage and have very little scent, helping them stay hidden from predators. While they may seem to be abandoned, mothers leave their young in secluded locations during their first few weeks of life. This a survival tactic, and helps reduce the potential of predators finding the fawn. They are rarely really abandoned. If you find a fawn, do not touch it because you will likely scare it and you may leave your scent, attracting predators. Mother deer return to their fawns when they feel it is safe, which is not when people or pets are present.

Before you take action

It is best to wait a minimum of 24 hours before intervening if you find an animal in the wild. If you believe the parent is dead or if the animal is visibly injured, you should contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator before removing the animal from the where you found it. It is illegal to possess abandoned or injured wildlife without a license in Michigan. Always report suspicious wildlife sightings to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources immediately. Unusual symptoms include walking in circles, no fear of humans, degraded body condition, and excessive drinking due to fever.

Professional nuisance wildlife control companies are permitted through the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to remove and relocate wildlife, and there are many in the East Lansing area. It is illegal to live trap and relocate wildlife anywhere in Michigan without permission from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.