by Mark A. Mitchell DVM, MS, PhD
One of the most common presentations to our facility is the "orphan" bird or mammal. It is important that we define what an orphan is up front. An orphaned animal is one that has been abandoned by the "parent." The vast majority of the cases presented are not truly "orphans." Instead they are animals that have been removed from functional nests or found near a nest as they were exploring their environment. Many citizens are quick to collect these animals because they feel that they are abandoned. In these cases, all attempts should be made to replace the animal in its nest. The old wives tale that the "parents" will not accept the animal after it has been touched by humans is incorrect. The nest should be observed from a safe distance. If the "parents" can see you they are not likely to return to the nest. The observation period should be based upon the age of the animal. The younger the animal the more critical the time period between feedings becomes. In cases where the "parents" are known to have abandoned the "orphan," the animal should be taken to a facility capable of providing the necessary supportive care. In most areas of the country it is illegal to raise wildlife unless you are a trained, licensed rehabilitator. Although the intentions of the individuals locating the "orphan" are good, these animals have very special needs that cannot be simulated using standard commercial preparations.
These agencies will only respond to calls during normal business hours, 8 a.m. - 5 p.m