Humane Society of Huron Valley: How to recognize when and if wild creatures need assistance

By Adeline Griffith / WLAA

With summer upon us, many young animals are reaching the age where they stray from their mother’s nest. This means that you may see them more frequently, perhaps by themselves, which  could come as a concern. 

“At this time of year you may see some rabbits, turtles, fawns, swans, and raccoons,” said Wendy Welch, director of communications at the Humane Society of Huron Valley. 

When you see a juvenile animal by itself, it may be natural to assume that it is in need of assistance, but that is not always the case. 

“Baby rabbits, for instance, are left alone for most of the day while their mother finds food. She’ll return to the nest only a couple times a day to feed them,” said Welch. 

Birds are also commonly mistaken as being abandoned, when in fact they are “fledging,” according to Andrea Aiuto, director of the Bird Center of Washtenaw County. 

There’s a misconception that they are being kicked out of the nest, but really they’ve just gotten bigger and there’s not room for them,” said Aiuto. “They usually hop around on the ground for 5-10 days and the mom still comes by and feeds them and they don’t really need our help and people should just leave them be.”  

It is important that people are able to recognize when and if wild creatures need assistance, and are able to do what’s best for the animal. However, you may come across some that could benefit from intervention, in which case you should be aware of the signs of such situations as well as the protocol that follows.  

“If you hear a baby animal crying, that’s a sign they need help. If they’re covered in maggots, they need help and obviously, if you see the dead mother nearby, they’ll need help, too,” said Welch. “While parents within Mother Nature do a fantastic job of caring for their young, sometimes we’ll see babies who’ve gotten injured by a predator or who’ve been abandoned when their mom gets hit by a car.”

So what should you do if you find an animal that does need help? 

“Get your gloves and a towel to gently wrap the animal in and place in a box that has plenty of holes,” said Welch. 

It is essential that you do not try to give the animal anything to eat or drink, according to both Aiuto and Welch, because it can actually do more harm than good. 

Usually, as a sympathy thing, people find an injured animal and they immediately give it water and search up what kind of food it eats. But the internet often tells you so much wrong information. If you give a bird too much water it can flood it’s air sacks and it’ll get pneumonia.” 

Once you have the animal in a safe, quiet environment, the next step is to seek professional help. If you’re within Washtenaw County, you can call the Humane Society of Huron Valley’s Rescue Team (734-661-3512), who will take the animal in, provide any urgent medical care, and then hand it off to any of its numerous licensed rehabilitation partners, such as Help 4 Wildlife and the Howell Nature Center, according to Welch. 

If you’re not in Washtenaw County, there are still plenty of places that will provide the best care for the animal. 

The DNR has a list on their website that tells you different places and what kind of animals they take or don’t take,” said Aiuto.

 Additionally, you can simply search the word “rehabber” along with the type of animal you found, and you’re bound to find someone who is qualified, according to Welch. 

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