Baby Wildlife in Need / How to know

As the last bit of winter hangs on, many of us have already glimpsed sprigs of lavender crocus peeking out of the ground. Soon our yards and communities will be hosts for all of nature’s new arrivals. Our natural areas will be filled with baby birds, bunnies, squirrels, raccoons, foxes and other unique wildlife all trying to survive in our bustling, ever expanding world.

While Spring is a wonderful time for most of us, it can also be filled with angst and distress if we happen to come upon a sick or injured baby animal. For most of us our inclination is to step in and try to do something. But sometimes it may be best to do nothing. If in doubt, the Wildlife Rescue League (WRL) can help guide you through the steps to help save a life.

I personally was faced with this challenge last Spring when I came out of my house and saw a baby bird perched right near my front door. My first inclination was to just give it some space so the anxious mother could take care of it. But then I saw some blood on its small tender wing. I called WRL and left a message. Within 10 minutes I got a return call. A helpline volunteer asked me a few questions and then recommended I take it to a rehabilitation volunteer that was only minutes from me. I put it in a small box and took it to one of our expert rehabbers. She took one look and said it was a baby robin that had likely been snagged by a cat. She did not give the bird much hope but said she would try. I was so impressed that she knew exactly what to do. I called back the next day and sadly she had been right. The little bird did not make it.

In many cases, however, the right thing to do is to just leave the small animal alone especially if it seems healthy. Baby birds often end up on the ground before they learn to fly and people mistake that as being injured. If the baby bird is fluffy and doesn’t have full feathers and you can easily return it to the nest, then go ahead. But if it has it’s feathers you should just leave it alone. If you have any questions, go to the WRL website for a detailed description of how to proceed. http/

In the meantime, here is a good list to refer to when in doubt.


  • Suffered a severe trauma such as being hit by a car or falling from a high nest;
  • Has an open wound with bleeding or swelling;
  • Is on the ground unable to move;
  • Shows signs of flies, worms or maggots, which look like grains of rice;
  • Is a baby and the parents are known dead or separated and cannot be united;
  • Is not fully furred or feathered;
  • Is very cold, thin or weak;
  • Was caught by a cat or dog, even if it seems healthy;
Written by Christina Anderson, Marketing Committee Co-Chair.

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Wildlife Rescue League - Viriginia
Wildlife Helpline 703-440-0800
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