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Blue Ridge Wildlife Center Provides Tips on Wildlife Rescue

Blue Ridge Wildlife Center Provides Tips on Wildlife Rescue

More than 1,500 orphaned baby wild animals will be rescued by the Center this season; however, advice is that many times they are better off left alone.

MILLWOOD, VA —This season, the Blue Ridge Wildlife Center expects to rescue and raise more than 1,500 orphaned baby wild animals which will be found throughout the Northern Virginia region. Not all of these babies are actually orphaned, and BRWC Hospital Director Jennifer Riley cautions would-be rescuers to consider all possibilities before bringing babies to Blue Ridge Wildlife Center and to call the Center with any concerns.

Riley explained, “Every year, well-meaning people accidentally rescue young wildlife that appears to need help but actually does not.”  Here are a few examples:

Baby birds without feathers that are uninjured can be successfully put back in their nests and the parents will continue to feed them. If you can’t find the nest, or it was destroyed, there are ways to create a new nest for the babies. Call BRWC for advice with this problem. If both parents are known to be dead, then the baby birds will need to be rescued.

Fledgling baby birds do not need to be rescued. Over the spring and summer, it is common to find young birds with short feathers on the ground that can’t fly or can only fly short distances. Most fledgling songbirds will leave their nests 5-7 days before they can fly. Their parents continue to care for them while they are on the ground, so they do not need to be rescued. The parents will not return to feed their babies if they sense there are predators in the area (including people). If you see a young bird with short tail feathers on the ground that cannot fly, keep people and pets far away from the area so the parents feel safe to return and resume feeding and teaching their young.

Baby cottontails normally leave their nest at a very young age. Finding a very small cottontail does not mean it needs to be rescued. If the bunny’s ears are standing up and its body is large enough to fill the palm of your hand, it is old enough to be on its own. At this age, they will freeze in place and will generally NOT attempt to run away from you. Keep dogs indoors or leashed during this period of 1-2 weeks until the youngsters leave the area on their own.

If you or your pets have accidentally uncovered a nest of cottontails, you can cover the nest again and the mother will return to raise the babies. There are ways to cover the nest to prevent dogs from getting to it while allowing the mother to access the babies. Cats should always be leashed or in catios when outdoors.

If a bird, bunny, or other baby wildlife has been in a cat’s mouth, it does need to be rescued even if it doesn’t appear to be injured. Exposure to the bacteria in the saliva in the cat’s mouth will make these animals sick, and they will succumb to infection in 2-3 days if not treated with antibiotics. If a dog has come into contact with the animal, it may be best to have it assessed at the hospital. Please call if you find yourself in this situation.

Young fawns are commonly found lying quietly on the ground, without a mother in sight. This is normal. Does (mother deer) will leave fawns hidden for most of the day while they go off to browse for food. Young fawns will not move until their mother comes back for them, and will frequently let people walk right up to them. These fawns do not need to be rescued. The mother doe will not return to her fawn if she senses there are predators in the area (including people), so please do not hover around the baby. If you find a fawn that is injured, please call BRWC (540-837-9000) for help. Be aware that there are regulations prohibiting the rescue and movement of deer across county lines due to the threat of spreading Chronic Wasting Disease. If a fawn is truly orphaned, other does will likely adopt that baby. Please give this process time and do not interfere. Call the Center with any concerns.

Remember, it is always better for wild animals to remain in the wild whenever possible. If they do need to be rescued, seek professional care for these animals and never attempt to care for them yourself. Be careful not to touch them with bare hands and do not give food or water. It is against the law for the public to possess wildlife without special permits and training. If in doubt, contact the Blue Ridge Wildlife Center at 540-837-9000 or visit the website:

Photos courtesy of the Blue Ridge Wildlife Center.

Posted on: April 28, 2023

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