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What to Do if You Spot Baby Wildlife

Washington, D.C. — As weather warms up, the chances increase of encountering young wildlife in backyards and neighborhoods. People’s first instinct when running into a young animal is try and rescue it, especially if it is alone. Before intervening, it is vital to ensure the animal actually needs help, and do it in a protective way, without decreasing its chances of survival.

“In many cases, it’s totally normal for wildlife babies to be on their own, and rescuing an animal that doesn’t need rescuing actually decreases its chance of survival,” said National Wildlife Federation Naturalist David Mizejewski. “We can, however, make an exception if an animal is injured as the direct result of human activity — such as getting hit by a car, attacked by a pet, striking a window, or falling from a nest during tree work — or if you’ve witnessed its parent being killed and know for sure that it has been orphaned. In those instances, the ethical thing to do is try to help, and calling a local wildlife rehabilitator should be your first step to provide help for the animal.”

Keep in mind that rescuing any wild animal in need is best left to trained professionals. Moving wildlife is a last resort and should only be attempted if the animal is in clear and imminent danger. If wildlife is hit by a vehicle, young or adult, immediately call a local wildlife rescue center or licensed wildlife rehabilitator for assistance. If a wildlife rescue center or rehabilitator cannot be contacted directly, try a local animal shelter, zoo, humane society, animal control department, nature center, state wildlife agency, or veterinarian for advice. And remember, animals are meant to live wild and free, so avoid trying to domesticate them.

David Mizejewski is a naturalist and television host with the National Wildlife Federation. He has hosted multiple television series and regularly appears in media to promote wildlife conservation. He specializes in urban ecology, the role that native plants have on wildlife populations, and helping people connect to nature by restoring wildlife habitat in their cities, towns, neighborhoods, backyards and gardens. To schedule Mizejewski for a virtual interview via Skype, Zoom, and Facetime on this subject, please contact Hali Simon, SimonH@nwf.org.

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