BY LISA HORN
The West Sound Wildlife Shelter has welcomed our first baby patients of the year: three tiny squirrels, a baby bunny and two darling baby rock doves.
As the rain makes way for the sunshine, most of us will find our way outdoors, shedding our rain gear and craving the sunshine we miss so much over the long winter months. With this time it is inevitable that some of us will come across an infant animal or bird that appears to need our help.
This is not always the case. In many cases, our “assistance” may actually lead to more harm. In 2012, the West Sound Wildlife Shelter cared for over 200 infant animals including mammals and birds, many of which were kidnapped by well-meaning humans.
Please call the shelter before you pick up any baby animal. Seeing a baby animal alone does not always mean that the parents are not nearby. The majority of the time, the parents are very close. Some animals purposefully leave their babies alone in order not to draw attention to the young:
• Rabbits only come to the nest two to three times in a 24-hour period to nurse and then will leave.
• Deer will leave the fawn for many hours, sometimes over 12 hours at a time.
• Foxes will allow the kits to play and explore outside of the den.
• Raccoons will move one baby at a time when changing dens but will be back for the young left behind.
• Many baby birds end up on the ground before they can fly but the parents will continue to feed them and teach them how to find food.
• With many wildlife species, both parents care for the young, so if you find a dead parent do not assume that the baby is orphaned.
It is a myth that if you touch a baby bird the parents will abandon it. If the baby bird has some feathers and is in immediate danger, move it to a nearby, safe location such as a bush or low limb.
If the baby is a nestling, return it to the nest. If the nest has fallen, you can make a nest with a berry basket or other shallow container that will not hold water. Fasten the container within 15 feet of the previous nest and the parents will return. Do not feed the babies. Keep kids and pets away so the parents feel that it is safe to return.
Wild animals are very good parents and work very hard to raise their babies. Too many times well-meaning humans abduct baby animals before the parents can retrieve or tend to them. Last year we received over 60 babies that were abducted.
Of course, it is possible that you will find an obviously injured bird or a known orphan. In this case, please give us a call at 206-855-9057. Our rehabilitators can give you advice on how to help the baby.
It is important that you never offer food or water to any wild animal patient. It is also important that you not try to keep this baby or any wild animal. For one thing, it is illegal to keep any wild bird in your home. More importantly, baby birds require intensive care to survive - they must be fed every 10 to 20 minutes from dawn to dark. Call us if you find a baby bird or any baby animal. We have the trained staff and volunteer team needed to take care of them.
We can all play a part, big or small, in the preservation and protection of animals in our community. The West Sound Wildlife Shelter needs your assistance to continue protecting and rehabilitating the wildlife of Kitsap County. West Sound Wildlife Shelter is the Western Puget Sound’s only wildlife hospital and education center. If you are interested in learning about more ways to help, please contact the shelter at 206-855-9057.
Lisa Horn is the executive director of the West Sound Wildlife Shelter.