What to do with baby wildlife found in your backyard?

baby bunnies

Or near your house or in a nearby green space?

What if a baby animal is in your yard and is injured or orphaned? Or what if a bird shows up and lays eggs in your hanging basket? There are some rules and tips so you can decide what action to take if this happens. There are many animals, including rabbits, birds, squirrels, raccoons, and possums, which we’ll address in this guide. 

What about kittens? You may find feral kittens in your yard and no cat mom in the spring. Feral kittens have their own set of rules.

Do these babies need help?

The general rule is ‘leave them be’ and according to PETA, “baby birds and mammals are perfectly fine and their parents are probably foraging for food nearby. In most cases, young wild animals should be left alone.” With that in mind, if the animal needs help, you should find a wildlife rehabilitator in your region. There are available rehabilitators in Oregon and Washington.

Here is advice based on each species. The Humane Society has some tips for every type of baby you may find. Each species is different!

Rabbits

momma bunny and baby bunnies

Rabbits may be left alone during the day as the mother doesn’t want to attract predators.

  • Don’t touch or move the babies – this is a hard and fast rule.
  • Keep your pets away from the nest; use an X-pen if you have to or baby gates.
  • Make a tic-tac-toe pattern with a piece of string over the nest and check back after 24-hours to see if the mother has removed the string.
  • You can confirm the nest has been disturbed by the mother this way!

Birds (any type) 

baby birds

Touching a nestling bird (featherless) is ok, and the parents will not reject the baby birds if you find them on the ground and need to be returned to the nest.

  • So, always return featherless baby birds to their nest. If you can’t find the nest, then look around and listen for chirping noises as you’ll find the nest nearby.
  • A fully feathered bird is a fledgling and might be out of the nest. If you find it in the street, then move it to some nearby vegetation and out of harm’s way.

Squirrels

baby squirrel

Call a wildlife rehabilitator! Baby squirrels need special care. 

  • There will be a nest in a tree where the babies are being cared for, so if you find a squirrel on the ground with its eyes closed, it’s too young to be away from its mom.
  • The best thing to do is to contact a wildlife rehab expert immediately.

Follow this advice from the Humane Society:

If it’s chilly outside or the baby isn’t fully furred, place them in a shoebox with something warm underneath (like a heating pad on a low setting or a hot water bottle). Be sure to put a flannel shirt between the baby and the heating device, or they could overheat. Do not cover them with anything, or the mother might not be able to find them.

Raccoons

baby raccoons

Don’t set traps for raccoons ever as mothers may be killed and babies left behind.

  • There are some simple tips for anyone that finds raccoon babies anywhere.

Follow this advice from the Humane Society:

Put an inverted laundry basket over the baby (with a lightweight on top so they cannot push their way out) and monitor them until well into the nighttime hours (raccoons are nocturnal, so the mom should come out at night to reclaim her baby).

Opossums

baby possums

Baby opossums are born barely larger than a bee!

  • When they get to be about three to four inches long and start riding around on their mother’s back, they may fall off without the mother noticing.
  • As a rule, if an opossum is over seven inches long (not including the tail), they’re old enough to be on their own. If they’re less than seven inches long (not including the tail), they are orphaned.
  • You should contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator if you suspect any issues.

Feral kittens

feral cat and kittens

Kittens are adorable. Check out this kitten timeline so you know how old the kitties are! What do you do if you find feral kittens without a mother? Keep this site handy: The Feral Cat Coalition of Oregon. If you have questions, please visit this site and contact these experts immediately. 

The Feral Cat Coalition advises you take the following action:

  • If you find the feral kittens without their mother, leave the kittens alone for a few hours (if they are 0-4 weeks old) or overnight if the kittens are older.
  • See if the mother returns, and you can put out cat food for the mom and a box in which the mother can use to keep her kittens.
  • Don’t disturb the kittens, as this may discourage the mom from returning to them, or she may move them away from you.

Now revisit the timeline above to determine how old the kittens are, as the next step depends on the age of the kittens. If they are younger than five weeks, you may need to bottle feed! Visit the Feral Cat Coalition’s site for more information.

Multnomah County Animal Services also provides the community with advice on feral kittens. If you find kittens or adult cats sick or injured, please contact the shelter immediately for assistance at (503) 988-7387.

Always reach out to a wildlife expert

If there is any question, please reach out to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife experts. Another resource for the community for anyone that needs a wildlife rehabilitator is the Humane Society of the United States.

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