Orphaned Wildlife

**Please DO NOT use our Contact form for wildlife emergencies! To find a rehabilitator near you, visit http://www.dgif.virginia.gov/wildlife/injured/rehabilitators.asp.  You can also leave a message on our Wildlife Referral Line and one of our volunteers will return your call as soon as possible.  If you live outside the Hampton Roads area and need help, please visit http://wildliferehabber.com for someone in your area or state. This will be much quicker than emailing us.**

The very first thing you should do before attempting to call volunteers is to place the wildlife you found in a small box (Make sure that the box has adequate ventilation by punching small air holes in the top before placing the animal inside), lined with a handtowel or clean rag (do not use paper towels), and place the secured box (tape the top if necessary) in a dark, quiet location away from people and pets.

The VBSPCA Wildlife Program is a non-profit organization, and depends entirely upon volunteers to assist the public with wildlife situations. Please be aware we nor any other agency provides wildlife pickup service.  You will be asked to transport wildlife to the nearest volunteer wildlife rehabilitator.  Please follow the stabilization instructions and get the animal to a rehabilitator right away. Good intentions have killed many animals, so please do not attempt to care for wildlife yourself.

When to help

*When a baby has been sitting in the same spot for more than a few minutes. This is not normal and may mean he's in trouble (even fledgling birds that are fully feathered, and look like small adults). Fledglings should be very active, hop-flying through the yard. Although the parents may be present and feeding the baby, it still may be injured and in need of rescue. However, you must be careful not to remove babies from the wild unless you know they need help, and are not just healthy youngsters learning to navigate on their own. Watch carefully for at least 15 minutes (unless there is immediate danger).

*Any baby animal that is not fully covered with feathers or fur, or has pink skin showing through, should not be out of its nest and needs to be rescued. Never leave a sick or injured animal exposed in the yard. Get him inside to safety and get help.

*If there are predators present, or other immediate danger. Predators include cats, dogs, crows, bluejays (or other omnivorous birds), CHILDREN, etc. Examples of immediate danger also include things like a fledgling bird at the side of the road (needs to be moved to safety first, then watched to see if it is okay or in need of rescue), an animal right at the edge of a pool or other water (same as above)

*The presence of flies or fly eggs means there is blood or infection. This animal needs to be rescued quickly.

*Visible blood or other obvious signs of trauma.

Many people are afraid to handle wildlife, even tiny babies.  If you are nervous, gently drop a cloth over the baby and gently scoop him up in it.  Take any other precautions as necessary for personal protection.

What NOT to do--A few important points

NEVER provide food or water unless you are instructed to do so. Baby birds do not learn how to correctly swallow water until they are flying, and will aspirate liquids into their lungs. Feeding an injured, cold, or dehydrated animal can produce fatal results. In mammals, feeding the wrong type of milk replacer to a baby can be life threatening.

Please do not be tempted to "do-it-yourself" with wildlife. They have very special needs, and require more than good intentions.

Never consider keeping wildlife as a pet! Not only is it illegal, it is also cruel.  And this practically guarantees a very bad outcome for everyone, especially the animal, once its wild instincts take over as an adult and it is no longer a cute and precious baby. All local wildlife is protected by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, and birds are also protected by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. An individual must have these permits before caring for orphaned and injured wildlife. Attempting to keep wild animals as pets, or raising orphaned wildlife without proper permits, is not only unethical, it is illegal!

Please get the animal to a rehabber right away! Time is critical and wildlife can't wait until it's convenient for you to transport. Stabilization information is only for the immediate care of the animal.

Do not handle the animal any more than necessary to get it to safety. It is easy to cause further injury to fragile babies.

Baby Birds

If you have found a baby bird on the ground, and it is not fully feathered and active, it needs help! It has fallen from its nest, possibly from a great height.

Because it may be injured, cold, or starving, please do not attempt to re-nest, even if you can see the nest and/or the parent. It is not always apparent that something is wrong with a baby bird, so please don't try to "guess". Just get help!

NEVER leave a baby bird outside. Get it inside and follow basic stabilization instructions until you can get it to a rehabilitator or to the VBSPCA.

Make sure you look for siblings. If one bird has fallen, it is likely that others have, too. They can scoot themselves along the ground farther than you might think, so look around thoroughly. Also watch the area over the next few days in case the nest is damaged and others continue to fall out.

**Remember, the parent birds cannot help their babies once they are on the ground. They will probably continue to feed, but they can't get their baby back in the nest! So even if you see the parents, that baby still needs help. Mockingbirds and blue jays especially, will make a huge fuss and try to keep you from intervening, but their fallen babies WILL die on the ground.**

Time is critical to baby animals. They cannot retain body heat and will become cold very quickly, even on hot days. Loss of body heat will kill them so please get them to a rehabber without delay.

Please do not attempt to raise the baby yourself! This is never in the best interests of the bird (it's also illegal) and there are rehabilitators available who can care for it properly.

Fledgling Birds

A fledgling is a young bird who has just left the nest. They look like smaller versions of adults, and have all their feathers, with tails about an inch long (if not, they are out of the nest too early and need to be rescued). It takes them 3-5 days of hop-flying before they can actually fly. A healthy fledgling should be very active, hop-flying through the yard with its family. A healthy fledgling is nearly impossible to catch.

RESCUE a fledgling when:

You have seen it in the same spot for more than a few minutes. This is abnormal and indicates trouble. Although the parents may be present and feeding the baby, it still may be injured and in need of rescue.

There is an immediate danger from predators (presence of a cat, dog, crows, blue jays, etc.).

There is any obvious injury, blood, or missing feathers.

The bird keeps its eyes closed.

There are flies present around the bird.

You're just not sure! If the rehabber determines that the bird is not orphaned, the bird can be returned to your property.

Baby Squirrels


Here is an Assessment Tool that you can use if you come across a baby squirrel to see if it needs to go to a Wildlife Rehabilitator. This tool will help the caller or finder determine if the squirrels need help or left alone. Please go to http://wildliferehabber.com/babysquirrel and if you still need assistance or a rehabber call us at 757 263-4762

Here is more information to consider:

If you see a young squirrel or "pinkie" on the ground:

Check to see if the whole nest has come down (Squirrels make big nests high up in trees). If it has, check carefully for more babies. Squirrels almost always have 3 or 4.

If the babies don't appear injured, place them in a lined, open box at the base of the tree they fell from. Just watch (but watch carefully!) for a short time. The mother will often come get her babies and carry them back to their nest. If the nest is destroyed, she may be trying to put one together quickly.

Do not let the babies get cold! If they feel cooler than the skin of your cheek, you will need to slowly warm them back up before putting them back outside. Use the stabilization instructions below.

If the mother doesn't attempt to come back for them, the babies will have to be rescued. Line a box or carrier with many layers of material, like cotton tee-shirts and socks (not terry-cloth). Keep them warm and undisturbed until you can get them to a rehabilitator. 

As with all wildlife, do not attempt to give food or liquids.

Baby Bunnies

If you go to this link it will tell you step by step on how to tell if they need to be rescued or left alone. Following these instructions will cut down on the bunnies that are taken to rehabbers. http://wildliferehabber.com/content/if-you-find-baby-bunny.

More information to consider:

If you find a baby rabbit fully furred and with eyes open, at least as big as a softball, then leave it alone. They become independent at a very early age and start foraging on their own.

Their mother won't be in sight even if they are still nursing. She will feed them only twice a day, at or after dark and at dawn.  She will not feed them if there are people/pets around or she suspects you are watching.  Her priority is to not draw "predators" to the nest.

If you uncover a rabbit nest with babies in it, try to cover it back over as well as possible and leave it alone. Keep an eye on the babies over the next few days. As long as they stay plump, you know the mother is feeding them. Do not intervene unless they appear thin and listless.

If there has been trauma (i.e. lawn mower) remove dead or injured babies, and clean up any blood so the mother will come back. Try to put the nest back together and see if she continues to care for them.

Handle them as little as possible. Rabbits are more sensitive to smell than birds and may reject handled babies. When you return the babies to the nest, wear gloves, rub your hands along the inside of the nest, and then lightly rub your hands over the babies. This essentially puts the familiar smell of the nest back on them, and lessen the chance of the mother being frightened of returning to them.

Baby rabbits are extremely susceptible to stress. It may appear that they are calm, sitting still in your hand, when actually they are simply paralyzed with fear. Their wild instincts are very, very strong, and they do not do well in captivity at all, so it's always best to leave them alone if possible.

If a pet has disturbed the nest, return the scattered babies and keep your pet in the house or a fenced area. Given the opportunity, pets WILL return and kill the rest of the babies.

If a baby is injured, or you are positive the mother is not returning to feed them, then rescue the baby. Again, HANDLE AS LITTLE AS POSSIBLE! Place them in a lined, small, box and get them to a rehabilitator quickly. Only handle them from a crouched position. They can surprise you and jump from your hands. NEVER stand up while holding a baby rabbit.

If the bunny is not fully furred, they need to be warmed following the same technique as for birds.