by Caroline Latta
While we love animals, the Greenburgh Nature Center is not a rehabilitation center. When in doubt, contact a wildlife rehabilitator: http://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/83977.html
The past few weeks at the Greenburgh Nature Center have been particularly busy with the arrival of several concerned Westchester residents with baby or injured animals in tow. Upon encountering an animal that appears to be abandoned or immobilized, your first instinct may be to take action and remove it from the wild. Although well-intentioned, human interventions are usually unnecessary and often counterproductive. We spoke to one of our longtime volunteers, wildlife rehabilitator Zach Lewis, for expert guidance on this topic.
Zach works for an exotics and wildlife clinic and has been partnering with the Nature Center for four years now. When someone comes to our front desk with a baby or injured animal, he is the one we call. Zach’s general advice to anyone who is concerned about a creature that seems to be in need is to always air on the side of caution before getting involved. Unless they are obviously injured, it is best to leave them exactly as you found them.
Even though they may not be visible, parents are usually still in the area taking care of their babies. However, if you see a clear injury or are having doubts, do not try to pick up the animal yourself. Instead, contact a professional rehabilitator who will be able to advise you on a case-by-case basis. You can find a list of wildlife rehabilitators near you by visiting: http://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/83977.html.
Here are some more specifics from Zach regarding some of the most commonly found animals:
- Nests of baby bunnies are almost always absolutely fine. Moms check in periodically, typically early in the morning and in the evening. Therefore, if a nest is removed in the afternoon, mom will come back in the evening to find all her babies gone.
- It may be time to call a rehabilitator if the bunnies are injured, bloody, or cold from man-made flooding (e.g., a sprinkler).
- Although they may look young and helpless, once bunnies are the size of a tennis ball, they are actually fully independent and living on their own. Therefore it is always best to leave them alone at this stage.
- With bunnies, it is especially important to avoid removing them from the wild unless absolutely necessary as it is incredibly difficult to take care of bunnies in captivity. They are very high stress animals. In addition, their mothers have special enzymes and probiotics in their milk that cannot be replicated by a rehabilitator.
- Baby birds frequently fall out of their nests for a number of reasons. They may fall accidentally, get knocked out by another animal, or have something wrong with them that we cannot see. These occurrences are normal and the parents are probably still checking in with them even though they are not in the nest.
- If a bird is found that is featherless, pink, and alien-like, it either needs to be returned to the nest or placed in a temporary nest in a location that is as elevated as possible. One can craft a nest using a wicker basket and cotton or other soft materials. Once put in place, the baby will cry out and this will help guide the parents to provide care.
- If a bird is found on the ground and looks like a mini adult (feathers and all), it is always recommended to leave them alone. Their parents will still be looking out for them during their transition to full independence.
- If you come across a turtle in the middle of the street, do not assume they are immobilized or injured. They are most likely just trying to get to the other side of the street and could simply be carried the rest of the way to whichever side of the road they are facing. Again, it is always advisable to contact a rehabilitator first for case-by-case instructions.