Lakeside Nature Center

You found a baby wild animal or injured wild animal – Now what do you do?

Contact Lakeside Nature Center at (816) 513-8960 for help and information on how to handle the animal. If the voice mail answers, leave a message. If you don't receive a call back, bring the animal to Lakeside Nature Center by 4:00 p.m. (if it is truly in need of help), or after 9:00 am the following day.

When should you help a baby bird?
If you find a young bird on the ground, that doesn’t have feathers, place the bird back into its nest. Birds DO NOT have a sense of smell so the parent bird will not desert its young if you touch it. If you can’t reach the nest, place the young in a container that has drainage holes in the bottom and hang it up in a tree where you think the nest was or in a nearby area on the same tree. Be sure to hang it in an area that is protected somewhat from rain and hot sun. The parents will continue to care for the young. If you find a young bird that is feathered, sitting on the ground, leave it there. Young birds spend one or two weeks on the ground while they are strengthening their wing muscles and learning to fly. You may help by keeping dogs and cats away from the area. The parent birds are still watching the young bird and coming down to feed him.

If you determine that the baby bird truly needs to be rescued, do the following:

  1. Place feathered babies in a paper grocery sack. Secure top with clothes pin or paper clip. Put small, unfeathered babies in a small container with a soft cloth. Cover container with another towel.

  2. Keep baby warm and in a quiet place until ready to transport to Lakeside Nature Center.

  3. Baby birds do not need to be fed if you are going to bring them to the Center within a few hours. Never give them water! If you have to feed them, use cat chow that has been soaked in warm water until it reaches a spongy consistency.

  4. Do not handle the bird unnecessarily. Keep it away from children and pets. Call the Nature Center - (816) 513-8960 - and bring the bird in as soon as possible.

When should you help a baby mammal?
If you find a baby mammal, such as a bunny, squirrel, skunk, deer, fox, opossum, raccoon, bat, etc., remember that leaving it with its mother is always best for its survival. Before attempting to rescue a baby mammal, be certain that it actually needs your help. Call Lakeside Nature Center for advice – (816) 513-8960.  Our phones are monitored by volunteers until 9:00 p.m. each night.  If you don't receive a call back, bring the animal to Lakeside Nature Center by 4:00 p.m. (if it is truly in need of help), or after 9:00 a.m. the following day.

When should a baby stay with its mother?
Generally, if the baby has not been attacked or is not bleeding, it is probably not hurt or sick.  If you find babies in a nest or den, leave them alone.  If the nest is intact, replace any stray animal.  If you do keep the animal overnight, be sure it is kept in a warm, quiet place away from children and pets. If it requires hydration, use only water in an eyedropper or offer  a shallow dish of water if it can stand. Any animal in need of help must arrive at Lakeside before 4:00 p.m. or at 9:00 a.m. the following day at 4701 E. Gregory (across from the Zoo).

Cottontail Rabbits:  If the rabbit is fully furred and about the size of a tennis ball, it should be left alone.  It can be moved to a brushy area out of harm’s way if there is no protection.  If smaller, return to its nest (use gloves to prevent human smell OR touch all babies so they smell the same) .  Mother bunnies only come to the nest twice a day, so it is rare she will be seen.  Place two strings or sticks over the nest and wait 24 hours to see if they have been disturbed.  If you’re convinced the Mother is not returning to the nest or you have seen a dead adult nearby, bring the rabbit to Lakeside or call first for advice at 816-513-8960.

Virginia Opossum:  All baby opossums less than 6 inches long (not including the tail) should be considered “orphaned”.  Keep the animal warm, call Lakeside Nature Center for advice or bring to Lakeside as soon as possible .

Gray / Red Fox Squirrels:  If the baby is out of its nest, construct a new nest in a basket or box and hang as far up the tree trunk as possible where you see the nest.  Often the babies fall out of nests, but Mom will take them back if she can find them even if you have touched them!  If the tree or tree’s nest is destroyed,  construct a make-shift nest off the ground but near the original tree/nest site.  This will provide her the opportunity to find the baby.( Keep out of direct sunlight.) Often Mother squirrels have several nests, so she’ll move the young ones if needed.  From a distance and completely out of sight, watch for the Mother to return for about 4-6 hours.  After that length of time bring to Lakeside Nature Center.

When does a baby mammal need your help?
If a baby is bleeding, shivering, vomiting, or suffered an attack, the animal is at risk. If you choose to help, approach with caution, because even baby animals can inflict injury or illness.

To help the baby, find a container with air holes or a cardboard box, and place a soft cloth in the bottom. Cover the baby with a light sheet or towel and gently pick the animal up and place it in the container. Keep the baby warm by placing the box half on/half off a heating pad set on low. Do not give the baby any food or water. Leave the baby in a quiet, dark place until you can transport it to Lakeside Nature Center.

Always practice good hygiene when handling animals or nests. You should wear gloves or use a towel as a barrier to protect from bites, scratches, disease and parasites. After handling the animal, clean everything, including towels, clothing, containers, gloves and hands to prevent spread of disease.

Remember, you should not keep a wild animal, even a baby, at your home any longer than necessary. In Missouri, it is against the law to keep a wild animal without a permit. If you find a baby that needs help, licensed rehabilitators at Lakeside Nature Center can begin caring for the animal as soon as you can get it there, which will increase the likelihood that it will survive.

Updated 11/16/11

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