Caring for baby wild animals

OTTAWA – If you have found a baby wild mammal, and you are unsure if it needs help, follow these steps to determine whether it really needs rescuing or should be left alone.

Remember, only a licensed wildlife rehabilitator can provide specialized care or medical treatment to wild animals. In Ontario, it is illegal for the general public to care for wildlife. In many cases you can call 3-1-1 for information on what to do. You can also contact the Rideau Wildlife Sanctuary.

Does the animal show signs of illness or injury?

Signs that a wild mammal might need rescue:

  • it appears friendly, is vocalizing or following people or pets
  • it is dehydrated or emaciated
  • it is weak or non-responsive
  • it is cold, wet or shivering (this might be a temporary rescue)
  • it is bleeding or has wounds or broken bones
  • it has breathing problems
  • it has discharge from the eyes, nose or mouth
  • it has bugs or flies on its body
  • it shows neurological symptoms, such as seizures, head tilting, loss of balance or walking in circles
  • it was mauled by a cat or dog, even if there are no obvious wounds
  • it is staying near dead adults or siblings
  • it is in imminent danger, such as near a road or predators
  • it has not reunited with its mother after a few hours

If you find wildlife with even just one of these symptoms, please contact a wildlife rehabilitator and follow the temporary care instructions below. If you are unsure whether a baby mammal needs rescuing, err on the side of caution and contact a professional, or call 3-1-1, for advice.

If there are no signs of illness or injury, it might be possible to reunite a baby with its mother. In some cases, it’s normal for some species to leave their young alone and the baby might be old enough to survive on its own.

Once you determine that a wild mammal needs rescuing, please take the following steps until you can reach a wildlife rehabilitator for advice.

Remember to wear protective gloves and do not try to handle any adult wildlife yourself. If it is safe to do so, try to corral an adult mammal into a box or pet carrier. You can use a towel to scoop up a baby animal. If it is not safe to catch the animal, try to block it off to prevent escape and call the City of Ottawa for rescue help at 3-1-1.

Place the animal in a covered box or pet carrier with ventilation. You can use an old t-shirt or other ravel-free material as bedding. Do not use towels and make sure the material has no holes or loose threads. Cover the carrier with a towel or sheet to keep it dark.

Leave the carrier in a warm, dark and quiet place indoors, away from pets and people. Do not cause unnecessary stress by handling, talking to or peeking at the animal.

All baby animals need to be kept warm. Place a heating pad, set to low, in one end of the box so that the animal can move to the unheated side if it is too warm. Never place an animal directly on a heating pad. You can also fill a soda bottle with hot water, wrap it in a towel and brace it inside the box so that it does not roll on the animal. Replace the hot water frequently as it cools down.

Never give the animal food, milk, formula or water until you have talked to a wildlife rehabilitator. Feeding the wrong thing at the wrong time or in the wrong way can harm the animal.

To reduce stress during transportation, turn the radio off and leave children and pets at home.