What to do if you find an orphaned wild animal:
- Examine the situation carefully, is the animal really orphaned? Many animal species will leave their young unattended for long periods of time (several hours). Often letting some time pass will reveal that the parents have returned after a short foray to gather food or other important materials. "If you care, leave it there."
BABY BIRDS are commonly encountered on the ground or in shrubs in the spring or early summer while trying to fledge. This is normal! The parents are typically close by and will continue to feed and protect the fledgling bird until it is ready to be on its own.
BABY RABBITS are also often found left unattended. This is also normal! The mother rabbit often makes trips away from the nest to forage for food, sometimes leaving the young for several hours.
BABY SQUIRRELS are often thought to be abandoned but most are in the process of being moved by the adults. Squirrels usually have three to four nests and move their young from one nest to another frequently.
BABY DEER (fawns) should be left where found, in most cases, the mother deer (doe) will be nearby, even if she is out of sight. Baby deer may be left alone for as long as three days.
BABY TURTLES should be left where found; they are capable of finding their way to preferred habitat. Not all hatchling turtles overwinter in water! Learn more about helping turtles.
- Consider allowing nature to take its course. The circle of life can be difficult to observe at times, but no animal goes to waste! Many species of wildlife rely on sick or injured animals to feed themselves and their young.
- If you are certain an animal is orphaned and want to intervene, please contact a local rehabilitation center or licensed professional before attempting to handle the animal if possible. They will be able to give you the best advice on what to do and what not to do if you decide to attempt rescue. Please see the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Minnesota's FAQ page for more information. Sick or injured wild animals may bite and scratch and pose a risk to humans (physical injury and/or exposure to disease). Use caution and never put yourself in a situation that you are uncomfortable with.
- When contacting local rehabilitation services, take careful note of where the animal was found, either to direct retrieval personnel or to tell the clinic when you drop off the animal. Animals should be returned to where they were found, or as close as possible.
- A good phrase to keep in mind is, “If you care, leave it there” before you decide to rescue an injured animal. Keep in mind that rehabilitation can be difficult, expensive, and has varying degrees of success. Nearly all rehabbers rely on donations to support rehab costs. Issues of disease must also be carefully considered.
NOTE: An unlicensed citizen may NOT attempt to rehabilitate an animal on their own. It is also unlawful to possess or transport injured wildlife for greater than 24 hours unless permitted to do so. Citizens should volunteer or partner with rehabilitation permit holders in order to transport orphaned, sick, or injured wild animal(s) (Rule 6244.0400). Find out more about permitting requirements.
NOTE: Unfortunately, the MN DNR does not have the staff or resources to respond to every injured or distressed wildlife report. The public is encouraged to contact local rehabilitation clinics or rehab professionals, or let nature take its course.
NOTE: It is unlawful to release non-native animals in Minnesota! Red-eared Slider Turtles, European Starlings, Pigeons (Rock Doves), Mute Swans, and House Sparrows are some examples of animals non-native to Minnesota. Bullfrogs are also non-native outside of Fillmore and Houston counties in Minnesota. Learn more about invasive species.
PLEASE REPORT: If you observe multiple dead, dying, or sick wildlife found in close proximity, please contact local DNR staff (Nongame Wildlife Program, area Wildlife Managers, or area Fisheries Managers) as this might be related to larger-scale disease outbreaks or poisoning.