Article and Photos by Lindsay Jones
Welcome to baby season! What’s that you ask? Well, if you aren’t familiar with the world of wildlife rehabilitation, and many aren’t, I’d like to capitalize on this hectic time of year and shed some light on this altruistic profession.
One of the most common reasons that an animal makes it into rehabilitation is that it becomes orphaned, either because it lost its mom, or because someone removed them from their environment, thinking that they were orphaned when they weren’t. This happens frequently and can have devastating consequences for the animal.
Many species have already given birth to their young by this time. Babies are especially vulnerable, with few survival skills, and rely on moms for nutrients and knowledge. When they become orphaned, either by humans or natural causes, rehabilitation centers become overwhelmed in the spring until the animal(s) can be released, where the timing of the release depends on the species and their overall welfare. Centers become further overwhelmed when entire litters of animals need to be admitted for care.
There are a plethora of other reasons why a rehabilitation center would intake an animal, and there are equally a number of other vital roles and services that a rehabilitator provides. The takeaway here is that this is a very crucial time of year when babies need to be with their moms. If you encounter a baby without a mom, keep your distance and do not approach. Assess your surroundings, try to look for mom, and gather as many clues as you can before you deem the animal “orphaned”. It is encouraged that you leave them there unless you can verify that mom is gone for good or can make contact with a rehabilitator first.
We all have good intentions when it comes to saving wildlife, but sometimes these intentions aren’t what’s best for the animal. If you have doubts or questions, contact your local wildlife agency. You can also visit https://theiwrc.org/resources/emergency for answers to common questions or www.ahnow.org to locate a rehabilitator.
Lindsay is a wildlife biologist and wildlife rehabilitation specialist who resides in Victor, ID. She is currently working on getting her MS in Nutrition and Integrative Health and spends most of her free time fly fishing and skiing.