'Orphaned' Baby Animals
Are They Really Abandoned?
Each year at the first signs of spring, the Michigan Humane Society Wildlife Department, based at the MHS Rochester Hills Center for Animal Care, begins taking in healthy baby rabbits, birds, ducklings and other young animals that well-meaning finders believed were orphaned. However, for most of those wild babies, being alone for several hours was a normal part of their mother’s protection and sadly, many will not survive or thrive away from their mother’s care.
To help save lives, MHS is asking the public to exercise caution before intervening with wildlife.
Those who come across wild baby animals and instinctively want to help them do so out of compassion, however, unless they are at immediate risk, it is usually in the animals’ best interest to not intervene or move them. When in doubt, those who find animals can call the MHS Wildlife Department or your nearest DNR office first.”
It is normal for many species to leave their young unattended for hours at a time. While it may appear that baby animals are abandoned when they are without their parents, most of the time the mother is nearby.
A doe may leave her fawn for up to eight hours before returning to nurse. Fawns do not carry a scent, so by watching her young from a distance, a doe helps keep her scent from attracting predators to them.
A duck may run in the opposite direction of her ducklings when she feels a threat is near, in order to have the predator chase her instead of her young. She will return to them when the threat is gone.
Another often-misunderstood sight is when young birds, which typically do not fly as soon as they leave the nest, spend a few days on the ground to build up their flight muscles. During this time, they may appear to be injured. Download this helpful "Found a Baby Bird" instruction sheet from Mass Audubon.
If you find an injured wild animal or animals known to be orphaned, contact your local Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) office or the DNR’s Wildlife Department at (517) 373-1263.
If you have more questions, contact the MHS Wildlife Department at 866-648-6263. Hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Wednesday.
For potentially life-saving tips on living in harmony with wildlife, visit www.michiganhumane.org/wildlife.