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Orphaned & Injured Wildlife


  • If you find a nest with live baby birds, but do not see the mother, usually there is not cause for worry.  Baby birds cannot live even for one day without being fed.  Mother birds can sneak in the nest, feed the babies, and fly away in a matter of seconds without a person actually seeing it.

  • If you find an injured bird, put it in a small, enclosed box lined with paper towels and poke holes in the bottom for ventilation.  Contact a wildlife rehabilitation center.

  • If you find a young, uninjured bird, you must first determine if it is a nestling or fledgling.  To do this, let the bird perch on your finger.  If it is gripping firmly, it is a fledgling.  Place it out of harm’s way in a nearby shrub or tree—above the ground—and leave it alone.  If the bird is unable to cling well, it is likely a nestling.  Look around for a nest in nearby trees and shrubs.  If the nest is not found, make a substitute nest by tying a berry basket, lined with some tissues or other soft material, in a tree.  Put the bird inside and leave it alone.  Usually as soon as you leave, the parents will return and resume feeding the baby bird.  Observe from a distance to be sure the parents are taking care of the baby bird.  If the parents do not return in two hours, something may have happened to them.  Contact a wildlife rehabilitation center.

  • We strongly advise against you hand-raising a baby bird.  This is a very labor-intensive job.  Nestlings must be fed every 15-20 minutes from sunrise to sunset.  Most hand-raised birds die before they are released.


  • Most bunnies found should be left alone.  If you find two or more bunnies in a slight depression in the ground, it is a nest.  Place two small sticks in an “X“ over the nest, using sticks that are at least six inches long and not too thick.  Check the “X” the next morning.  If the sticks have not moved at all, place a third stick horizontally over the “X” and check again the next morning.  If the sticks are still undisturbed, it is likely the mother is dead and a wildlife rehabilitation center should be contacted.

  • Also contact a wildlife rehabilitation center if you find a single bunny with its eyes closed and on flat ground.  See instructions below for finding an injured rabbit or bunny.

  • A bunny found with its eyes open and hopping around should be left alone.  Bunnies measuring approx. 4 inches from the tip of its nose to tail when in a sitting position are already on their own and independent.  Bunnies will frequently freeze in a huddled position when approached.  Leave it alone.  It is extremely frightened.  Keep children and pets away and the bunny will hop away once it feels safe.  It does not need your help.

  • Contact a wildlife rehabilitation center if you find an injured rabbit or bunny.  With gloves on, place the animal into a deep box or a carrier with soft, dry bedding.  Place a heating pad on low under half of the box in which you have the animal.  Cover the box to maintain the heat, but make sure there are adequate holes for ventilation and oxygen.  While waiting for the wildlife rehabilitation center to return your call, keep the animal in a quiet room or closet away from people, noises and pets.  If the injured rabbit is a lactating female, check the area for the nest of babies.

  • Never try to raise bunnies yourself.  It is against the law for anyone to take wild animals to raise without the proper training and DNR licensing.  Also, bunnies are very fragile, traumatize easily, have special complex nutritional needs, and can die suddenly.


  • Unfortunately there are few medical alternatives for injured deer.  They become so severely traumatized by capture and treatment, that it contributes to their death.  Injury prevention is very important for deer.  Observe deer alert signs, slow down and drive with caution on any roads that are a natural habitat for deer—especially in the early morning and early evening when deer are most likely to be moving, as well as late fall when they are mating.  Keep your dog(s) from roaming the neighborhood and chasing deer. 

  • All deer injury accidents are to be reported to the DNR, Wildlife Division, (651) 296-3344 and your city animal control department or local non-emergency police department.  Report the location and condition of the deer.  If the deer is down and cannot get up, someone in authority should come and put the deer out of its misery.

  • A deer observed with a broken leg, but otherwise seeming healthy and projecting a strong desire to live should not be killed.  Many deer suffer this injury during hunting season.  If you observe the injured deer during a season when food is scanty, the DNR usually allows individuals to provide a feeding station for the injured deer.  Check to see if your area has a law against feeding an injured deer.  The feeding station must be maintained through April.  Cracked corn should be supplied as a continuous and stable food source, with apples and oiled sunflower seeds as a supplement.  Do not feed whole corn; it is difficult for the deer to digest.  Bales of alfalfa can serve as bedding and nesting material for the injured deer.  Given an opportunity and some help with food, a crippled deer can heal and rejoin its herd.

  • If you find a baby deer, or fawn, it is not necessarily an orphan.  The mother may be off looking for food.  Leave the fawn alone and keep pets and people away.  Check nearby roads and roadsides for a dead lactating doe.  If none is found, observe the fawn from a distance with field glasses.  The mother will be reluctant to approach the fawn if you are too close.  Does are good mothers and do not abandon their babies.

  • If the fawn is determined to be an orphan, it will need immediate care.  Put the fawn in a warm, darkened enclosure with ventilation.  Place warm bedding in the enclosure, making sure it has no strings or loops to entangle the fawn’s hooves and legs.  Never put the fawn in a wire cage because it could injure its legs.  If you use a kennel, the inside of the wire door must be covered with cardboard.  Do not feed the fawn.  They are extremely delicate and require a special diet.  Contact a wildlife rehabilitation center once you have the fawn contained.


  • If you find raccoon cubs and know the mother is dead, contact a Wildlife Rehabilitation Center immediately.  Inquire whether they currently have the capacity to take in the cubs.  Sometimes they are full and all cubs taken in will be destroyed.  If the cubs are old enough, they may have a better chance left in the wild with other members of their clan.

  • Though it is tempting to keep orphaned raccoon cubs as pets, it is against the law.  It is in the cubs’ best interests to be raised and released to the wild by licensed rehabbers who have the training, knowledge, and resources.

  • A raccoon limping, but with no signs of compound fractures, broken skin, or bleeding can be helped by just providing food for it.  Place food such as dry cat or dog food, peanut butter sandwiches, sliced oranges, apple chunks, and water at a safe distance from the injured raccoon.  Keep pets and people away.  Observe from a distance and watch for changes.  Raccoons can heal some injuries by themselves if it is not too severe.  Call a wildlife rehabilitation center if the animal appears to be suffering, or is not making progress in healing.

  • Call your city’s own Animal Control Officer in the case of a badly injured raccoon.  If your city does not have separate animal control, call your Police Department’s non-emergency number.  These agencies can be helpful in coming out and assessing the situation, and if necessary dispatching the animal.  The animal should not be left to suffer.

  • A raccoon appearing “stunned” may have been just hit by a car.  Observe the raccoon.  It may only need quiet time to get its bearing.  If there is indication of a severe injury, follow the instructions above for a badly injured raccoon.

  • A raccoon seen walking in circles, with cloudy mucous coming from the eyes and nose, is likely suffering from distemper.  Again, contact your local police department or animal control officer.  The raccoon will probably need to be dispatched.

  • A raccoon can often clean and care for open wounds themselves if they are not too severe.  If you question the situation, contact a wildlife rehabilitation center.


  • Attempt to return any healthy infant squirrels found to their mother.  The infant squirrels are unable to generate their own body heat and keeping them warm is essential to their survival.

  • With gloves on, place all healthy baby squirrels in a cardboard box with dry, warm bedding, such as cloth that does not have loops or frays.  Clean, shredded newspaper can also be used as bedding.

  • Place the box with the baby squirrels in a location the mother would expect to find them.  If they fell from a tree, place them under that tree.  Put a plastic bag or large piece of plastic under the box to prevent it from absorbing moisture from the ground.

  • To provide essential warmth, surround the outside of the box with plastic bottles of warm water—make sure the caps are secure.  You can also use microwave activated hand warmers and slipper liners.  Place them inside the box, but be careful they cannot burn the babies.  Partially cover the box to keep the warmth in, while still allowing the mother access to retrieve the babies.

Information provided by Wildlife Rehabilitation & Release.

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