Baby Animals Should Be Left Where They Are!




It’s that time of year again. Spring is in full bloom and summer just around the corner.  Mother Nature is bringing lots of babies into the world right now.  As a wildlife veterinarian and rehabilitator I see many types of wild animals that are brought into the hospital this time of year.  My team does its best to bring the sick and injured ones back to health and return them to the wild. Many times we are brought baby animals that are picked up by people assuming they are abandoned or injured. They’re usually not. Mother Nature has unique ways of taking care of her babies which doesn’t require any help from us humans. Rehabilitators are required to file annual reports with New York State about our work. One of the categories asks why animals are brought in. The one I find most frustrating is titled “unnecessary human intervention”. Here’s some advice on how to avoid falling into that category.  


Baby cottontail rabbits are fed by their mother only around two times a day, typically at dawn and dusk. The rest of the day they are left alone in the nest while she is out feeding. Once they are able to walk they may move out of, but stay within, the area of the nest. They are supposed to be on their own.  They are not abandoned. If you come upon a nest of baby bunnies or find one out on its own LEAVE THEM ALONE! Their instinct is to freeze.  Through lack of fear they will allow themselves to be picked up. If no injuries are visible, LEAVE THEM ALONE! 


Baby birds stay in the nest until fully feathered. Once they are and just before and while learning to fly they will leave the nest and stay nearby on the ground or lower branches. This is known as the fledgling stage. The parents still come and feed them while out and about. They are not abandoned.  If you come upon fully feathered, uninjured baby birds hopping around the ground, LEAVE THEM ALONE!  If there is a danger of cats or other animals lurking nearby, you can move the fledgling into the branches of a nearby tree. The parents will find it. The smell of a human will not cause them to be abandoned. That’s false folklore. 


Baby deer or fawns are also only fed by their mothers twice a day at dawn and dusk. The fawn is left alone throughout the day to sleep in a safe and quiet place. However, some fawns don’t read the manual and get up and wander around. They are not abandoned but simply are waiting for mom to reappear for dinner. If you come upon uninjured fawns, LEAVE THEM ALONE! 

By now I hope you’ve caught my drift on how you should approach uninjured baby animals.

I’m always happy to attend to injured wildlife. Many veterinarians are.  If you have any questions about wild animals you come across please contact the local DEC, a wildlife rehabilitator or your veterinarian. If you find baby wild animals that are not injured, LEAVE THEM ALONE!




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  • Blog Author

    Dr. James Zgoda

    Education: University of Pennsylvania, B.A. Animal Behavior 1980 Rutgers Univ., M.S. Zoology 1981 Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, D.V.M., 1985 Owner and chief veterinarian of Otterkill Animal Hospital in Campbell Hall, NY ... Read Full
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