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Taylor explains how you can help a baby rabbit, squirrel, or raccoon if you find them in the wild.

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Hi everyone.  Welcome back to Animal Wonders and I'm Taylor.  It's spring right now and we've been getting a lot of questions about this, so today I wanted to tell you what to do if you find a baby rabbit, squirrel, or raccoon in the wild.


Rabbits, squirrels, and raccoons are some of the small mammals that are most commonly found orphaned or abandoned.  Different types of mammals will require different types of care, so if you find a baby mammal, the first thing you want to do is determine what kind of animal they are and about how old they are.  

If you find a rabbit that is fully furred, they have their eyes open, and they're about the size of a softball, then leave 'em alone.  This means that the rabbit is on their own and they don't need any help.  However, if they have short, thin fur, their eyes are still closed, or they're very small, the best thing you can try to do is to place them back into their nest.  The nest could be a burrow or it could be a shallow depression in the ground that's lined with grass or fur.  Once you're replaced the baby, make sure you leave the area and keep all your pets away from it.  The mothers will only visit their young at dusk and dawn and they usually only stay for a couple minutes. 

Baby bunnies do not have much of a scent, so it's hard for predators to find them.  However, the mother does have a scent, and if she spends too much time at the nest, she could attract predators to her babies.  If you want to check whether the mother has visited the nest, you can place two small sticks or strings in an 'X' over the nest.  Then you can check back every 12 hours over the next two days to see whether the sticks have been moved or pushed out of place.   If the mother does not return, go ahead and call your local wildlife rehabilitator for further advice.  Do not attempt to care for them on your own.  Rabbits have an extremely low chance of survival once they're taken from the wild, so it's important that you leave them alone unless it's absolutely necessary.

When it comes to squirrels, there are some similarities, but there are some crucial differences, too.  If you find a squirrel that has a fluffed out tail or they're longer than about 6 inches, leave them alone.  This means that the squirrel is a juvenile and they're already ready to be out and about on their own.  

If the baby squirrel is smaller than 6 inches, they have their eyes closed, or they're not fully furred, this means that they're an infant.  It's likely they fell from their nest or their mother dropped them while she was moving them.  Therefore, the best thing you can do for them is to get them back into their nest.  If you can't reach the nest easily, you can place the baby in a small box or container and put that up in the tree the baby fell from.  You can also place a bag of warm rice or a warm water bottle in the box as a heat source for the baby.  If you can't find the nest, place them in the tree closest to where you found them.  Once you have replaced the baby, it's important that you leave the area.  The mother will not return if she sees any threats such as dogs, cats, or people nearby.  Also, squirrels will move their young from one nest to another, so it might take a while for the mom to backtrack and to find the baby that she lost.  You can check back in on the baby after 6-8 hours, and if it looks like the mom hasn't been there, go ahead and call your local wildlife rehab.

Once again, there are some similarities to rabbits and squirrels, but raccoons are a different species, so there are some differences.  If you find a raccoon that's alert, moving well on their own, and about 18 inches long, leave them alone.  You might see older baby raccoons out during the day because they'll go out to play while their mom takes a nap.  If the baby raccoon's eyes are not open, they're not moving very well, or they're pretty small, it's likely that their mom dropped them or they fell out of their nest.

If the baby looks vulnerable, you can place it in a box or a container and put it in a high place away from pets or foot traffic.  Again, you can also place a warm bag of rice or a warm water bottle in the box for the baby as a heat source.  The mother will come for the babies during the night, so you can leave them alone for a few hours or even a full night before you check on them again.  When you go to check on them, if it looks like the mother hasn't returned, once again, go ahead and call your local wildlife rehab. 

Do not give food or water to an orphaned or injured baby animal.  They have very sensitive stomachs and very specific diets, so it's easy to make a mistake and that can make them sick.  Also, if you have to handle a baby animal, be sure to use gloves to prevent the spread of disease or any injury.  Regardless of species, if you find a baby animal that's injured, cold & wet, crying non-stop, or you're sure the mom is dead or gone, go ahead and call your local wildlife rehabilitation center and ask for further help or instructions.

As a reminder, Animal Wonders is not a wildlife rehabilitation center, but if you find yourself in this situation, I hope these tips have helped.  If you want to learn more about animals, subscribe to our YouTube channel AnimalWondersMontana and go on an adventure with us every week.  Thanks.  See you next time.