Orphaned Wildlife

If you care, leave it there.


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.
    • 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. A doe with fawns may be aggressively protective - stay away from them for your own safety, and keep your pets away, too.
    • 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.
  • Suffering wildlife is difficult to observe. Consider that rarely does an animal carcass go 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, please contact a local rehabilitation center or licensed professional before attempting to handle the animal. Wildlife Rehabilitators will be able to give you the best advice on what to do and what not to do with a sick or injured animal. 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 contracting local rehabilitation services, record the location or address of where the animal was found. Wildlife rehabilitators will need to know where to rescue the animal and where to return it to once it has recovered and can be released back to the wild.
  • A good phrase to keep in mind is, "If you care, leave it there" before you decide to initiate rescue of an injured animal. Nearly all rehabbers rely on donations to support costs, so consider a donation to help them in their cause.

Rehabilitation services

  • 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 animals.