Find a wild baby animal? This is what you need to know to keep them safe, Texas experts say

HOUSTON – The Wildlife Center of Texas shared a photo on Wednesday of a rescued baby armadillo.

The post reads, in part, “Howdy, y’all! It’s Rodeo time here in Houston and we are celebrating with a Texas favorite, the nine-banded armadillo. This little baby came in thin and dehydrated yesterday but is now getting the care he needs to survive.”

The center used the photo to remind people to keep an eye out for injured or orphaned babies that may need your help, but noted that not every baby is orphaned and some can be reunited with the parents.

“If you’re unsure, leave us a message and we will talk it through with you before you bring the baby in,” the post reads.

On its website, the center shares this information about young animals:

Follow These Steps:

  • Watch – Look for injuries, parents, and siblings.

  • Replace – If the baby is not injured and the parents are still around, just re-nest it.

  • Collect- Place it in a box with soft rags and keep it warm until you can get to the center. DO NOT give the baby any food or liquids!

  • Contact – Reach out to us right away at (713) 861-WILD

baby animals

The most important thing to do if you find a baby wild animal is to make sure it truly is an orphan! Wild animals are good parents and many times well-meaning rescuers pick up and whisk away healthy youngsters while their parents watch. This is especially true of fawns, baby rabbits and fledgling birds. Species-specific advice can be found in the following sub-sections. There are several signs to watch for indicating a baby animal is in need of help. If the baby is cold; appears to be injured; is covered in ants, flies, or fly eggs/maggots; or is very weak, it should be rescued and brought to a rehabilitator as quickly as possible.

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If a young animal is truly orphaned, or if it appears to be injured, the best action a rescuer can take is to keep the baby warm. Hypothermia (becoming too cold) is life threatening, and almost all wildlife, with the exception of the opossum, has internal temperatures that are higher than ours. Place the animal in a box with soft rags and use a heating pad set on low or a rice sock (dry uncooked rice placed in a sock and heated for 30 – 45 seconds in a microwave) to keep it warm. DO NOT give the animal food or liquids. Great harm can come to an animal that is fed the wrong food, at the wrong time or in the wrong way.

If the baby animal you have found is one of the high-risk rabies species (raccoon, skunk, bat, fox, coyote), please speak to the Wildlife Center of Texas staff before bringing to make sure we can accept it. Any other baby should be brought The Wildlife Center of Texas as soon as possible. If it is after hours, keep the animal warm as described above until you can bring it to our center the next day.

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Nestling birds

Nestling birds have little to no feathers and still need a parent’s body temperature to keep warm. Often the baby can be put back into the nest or into a hanging basket or bucket to protect them from dogs and cats and the parent will continue to bring food to the baby.

Don’t forget to put holes in the bottom of the container to prevent drowning should it rain. It is NOT true that the parent will abandon the baby if touched by humans – birds will not reject the nestling or fledgling even if they see it being handled by a rescuer. Be sure to monitor the baby, if Mom doesn’t return or the baby appears to become weak, get help quickly.

fledgling birds

Fledgling birds have short stubby wing and tail feathers and are beginning to look like the parents. They spend hours or days on the ground while learning to fly and are supplemented with food from their parents. If the baby has wing feathers and a stubby tail, it’s supposed to be on the ground learning to fly. Place it in a tall bush or small tree and keep pets away from the area.

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Look for injuries such as a broken wing or leg. Also look for the presence of ants, fly eggs or maggots. Fly eggs look like clumps of small yellow rice grains. The whole body should be checked for fly eggs since they will be laid on any broken skin or body opening.

Birds that live in colonies

Purple Martins and other birds that live in houses can be infested with mites, especially if the house hasn’t been thoroughly cleaned the previous winter. If babies repeatedly jump out of the house before they are physically ready, the problem could be mites. Be very careful with your selection of insecticide, 1% rotenone powder or pyrethrin spray are known to be safe for wild birds. 5% Sevin dust is also safe when used in the small amounts as specified on the label.

Baby Mammals

Young mammals may appear lost and alone while they explore or wait for parents to return from foraging for food nearby. This is especially true for deer and rabbits who intentionally do not remain with their babies during the day. Each time the mom returns from foraging, she leaves another scent trail that could potentially lead a predator to the nest. So, as the baby gets older and can go longer between nursing, she spends more and more time nearby, but not with her offspring. Mammalian mothers will frequently come to retrieve young that have fallen from a nest. Try placing the baby in a small, open box below the nest area and give mom about two hours to get the baby. This can be especially effective with squirrels and raccoons. Keep in mind that The Wildlife Center of Texas cannot accept many of the rabies-vector mammal species per an advisory from the Harris County Health Department, so make every attempt to reunite babies with their mother.

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Here’s more information about what to do if you need more help.

You can support the Wildlife Center of Texas here.

Copyright 2022 by KPRC Click2Houston – All rights reserved.

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