Information on Infant Wildlife

This post was submitted as part of the Pet ‘Net Adoption Event 2008 to heighten awareness about animal shelter adoption.Please visit your local shelter, or Human Society location and ADOPT A PET if you can. Your continued support is essential to enhancing the quality of life for all animals and there are several ways you can help, besides adoption, which includes donations, fostering, volunteering, etc. Here’s HOW YOU CAN HELP support my local Winnipeg Humane Society. Thank-You. // HART

* Reprinted from The WHS Newsletter – Spring 2007

By Sheila Smith

Each year we receive thousands of calls from people who have found infant wildlife they believe are orphans. Often, it’s not the case. In many cases concerned people think they are rescuing babies in distress but are actually kidnapping these infants from their families. This information will help you to identify if the babies are in need of your help, or should just be left alone. If you do come across what you believe are infants in need of help, please call the Manitoba Wildlife Rescue Organization at 204.883-2122 or visit our website at or


Nestlings are infant birds who are featherless or whose feathers are just beginning to come in. They are often found on the ground directly below the nest from which they fell. The best thing to do is to place the bird into its nest. If the nest is damaged or out of reach, poke drain holes into a margarine container and place grass or twigs into the bottom of the container. Then place it as high into the tree and as close to the original nest as possible. Watch for about two hours to ensure parents are caring for the young. NOTE: Birds do not have a good sense of smell and will not reject there young if humans have touched them.

Fledglings are partially feathered birds with short tails found sitting on the ground under a tree. This doesn’t mean they fell out of a nest. At this stage fledgling jump or fall out of the nest as a normal part of their “flight training”. The parents still feed the young on the ground until the young birds are able to fly; usually in a few days. Please do not feed or handle these birds. Juvenile crows look like adult crows except they have blue eyes and a short tail. The parents will start making a cawing crying at you if you approach the juvenile. Please leave them alone; the young bird is taken care of. Cats, dogs and curious children should be kept away from these birds so the parents can continue to feed them. NOTE: Please do not give them food! If the parents believe the young are able to find their own food, they will stop feeding them.


Infant mammals are usually found when their nest or den has been destroyed or disturbed in some way. Many times young appear to be lost and alone while waiting for their parents. Infant Squirrels are often found after a nest has been blown down in a storm. They should be placed in a box at the base of a tree. The parents usually come and retrieve them when people are not around. Please keep pets and children away from the squirrels. Call the centre for further instructions and advice on what to do next. Infant Cottontail Rabbits make their “nests” in small impressions in the grass. The nest is lined with grass and mothers’ fur. They are frequently disturbed by people when they mow or rake their grass. If a nest is found or disturbed, place the infant rabbits back into their nest and leave them there unless you know the mother has been killed or the babies are injured. You will not see the mother – this is normal. She only feeds her young twice a day, at dusk and dawn. If you think the mother is dead but do not see a body, you may leave string at the entrance of the nest. Place the string in an “x”. If the string was moved by the next morning, all is well. If the string has not been moved and the infants are cool, please phone the center for more information. NOTE: When young rabbits are the size of tennis ball, they are totally independent. They do not need to be brought in unless they are injured.

Always remember: A young animal’s best chance of survival is to be raised by its natural parents. Only after all efforts to reunite parents with their young should the infants be removed from the wild. Do not try to raise them yourself. Proper care and nutrition are crucial to the survival of infant animals. Please do not try to feed them yourself. Young animals are easily imprinted onto whoever is handling them and steps are needed to prevent this. An imprinted animal cannot be released and usually must be euthanized.

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