Wild orphans: to rescue or not?

Many of the young do not need human help

For the Troy Daily News

TROY — Whether it is a baby bird, squirrel, bunny or other wild animal, children have a knack for finding wild orphans. Across the United States during the spring and summer months, thousands of young wild animals will be picked up; some need to be rescued, most do not.

“At Brukner Nature Center, we care for more than 1,400 animals each year,” said Becky Crow, curator of wildlife. “They are brought to us by well-intentioned individuals, but many of them did not need to be rescued.”

Baby bunnies, also known as kits, are one of the wild animals rescued most often, but usually do not need human help. Mother rabbits are only at the nest to feed their young twice a day for about five minutes — at dawn and dusk. And, yes, they really did put the nest in the middle of your backyard! One reason for this is so mama rabbit can see any predators that may be approaching while she is nursing her young. Kits are in their nest for only two to three weeks; a pretty short time before they are independent. Leave the nest alone unless you find cold, limp babies, or obviously injured ones. Brukner Nature Center also has more advice available on how to keep the young safe in the nest until they are ready to live on their own.

There also is a myth that once a baby bird is touched by a human, it will not be cared for by the parent birds, which is not true. First of all, birds, except for those in the vulture family, have a poor sense of smell. They cannot even tell that you touched the nestling when returning it to the nest. However, if you put a cold baby bird back in the nest and it is unable to beg for food when the parent arrives, it is in trouble. It is always best to call Brukner Nature Center for help and advice.

Did you know that mother deer forage for food, leaving their camouflaged, spotted fawns alone for several hours at a time? People who come across these vulnerable-looking fawns in the woods, their backyards and along roadways always assume they need help. Unless the fawn is obviously injured — broken leg, open wound, flies buzzing around it — it is most likely perfectly fine. Its mom intends to come back soon and expects to find the youngster right where she left it after the last feeding.

“It is illegal, as well as unwise, to keep wildlife as pets or even to try to raise orphans unless you are trained and have the proper permits from state and federal wildlife agencies,” Crow said.

Licensed wildlife rehabilitators have the knowledge and experience to care for wild orphans that need help. They know how to raise orphans to be healthy and wild. When you find a wild animal you think needs help, it is best to call for advice so both you and the wild animal remain safe.

In this area, you can call Brukner Nature Center at (937) 698-6493. Please make certain the wild animal in question needs to be rescued. Even with the best efforts of Brukner Nature Center, there is no substitute for Mother Nature.

Brukner Nature Center is a non-profit, privately-funded organization promoting the appreciation and understanding of wildlife conservation through preservation, education and rehabilitation. Hours of operation: Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays from 12:30-5 p.m. Admission is $2.50 per person or $10 for a family of four or more (cash or check). BNC members are always free. There is no admission charge on Sundays. Membership dues provide valuable operational support to subsidize environmental education and wildlife rehabilitation.

For more information or to make a donation, call (937) 698-6493, email info@bruknernaturecenter.com or visit www.bruknernaturecenter.com.

Many of the young do not need human help