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When should I rescue a wild animal?

  • If the animal is obviously injured, cold to the touch, or weak
  • If you know for sure that the parent is dead.  Wild parents may leave the babies alone for hours at a time.
  • If a baby has fallen from a nest, either place it back in the nest, or place it in a cardboard box with a bottle filled with hot water to keep it warm.  Give the parent a chance to retrieve it.

When don’t I need to rescue?

  • Bright-eyed, active, warm, well fed babies if the parent may still be nearby
  • Healthy baby bunnies whose eyes are open
  • Fully feathered baby birds. 
  • Healthy babies that have been touched by humans.  It is a myth that the parent will no longer care for them. 

Abandoned or not?
Not all wildlife is abandoned.  The mother returns to the nesting area between dawn and dusk to feed her young.  She then leaves but stays in close proximity to the nest.  This helps keep predators away from their babies.  More than 2500 birds and mammals are brought to wildlife rehabilitators for care each year in Delaware.  If you or your children are out in the woods or even in your own backyard and you come across a baby animal just remember this phrase “If you care, leave it there!”

Do’s and don’ts for handlingwildlife.


  • Wear gloves.
  • Find a sturdy, secure container and line the bottom with a towel.
  • Use another towel to transfer the animal into the container.
  • Place the container in a dark, quiet place.


  • Allow children to handle the animals.
  • Let pets near them.
  • Give water or food unless directed by a rehabilitator.
  • Try to raise them yourself.  It is against the law in Delaware.


The String Trick For Baby Bunnies

     Wildlife rehabilitators get more calls about baby cottontail rabbits than any other animals.  People often find nests with baby rabbits and presume they have been abandoned by the mother.  This is almost never true unless there is a dead adult rabbit in the vicinity.  Typically, mother cottontail returns to the nest only to nurse the young during the early morning and evening hours.  She stays away during daylight hours to avoid attracting the attention of predators to her defenseless young.  There is a handy little trick we use to make sure that the mother rabbit is coming back to the nest to feed the young.  Take two pieces of yarn or thin string cut in lengths of about 12 inches.  Place these in an X shape on the nest, over top of the grass material covering the young.  When the mother returns to nurse the young, the X shape of the strings should be disturbed.  Make sure the string has been in place during an evening or early morning.  If the string is not disturbed during those periods, then call a rehabilitator.  We dislike taking baby bunnies unless this trick has been tried to confirm the absence of the mother.  Baby bunnies are the most difficult wildlife species to raise by hand.  Mortality is high, so we prefer to let mother cottontail do what she does best.

It is untrue that wild animals handled by humans will not be accepted back by their parents or can be more easily smelled by predators.



        Whitetail does do not remain with their young fawns at all times.  Especially when fawns are less than two weeks old, the doe leaves the fawn in a safe location and goes to feed.  Even when in the immediate area, she does not stay at the fawn’s side but watches from a short distance.  As protection against predators, young fawns have almost no odor so are less obvious if the mother is not at their sides.   Fawns lie hidden in vegetation and instinctively remain almost motionless when another animal or human comes near.  Campers and hikers coming across a fawn in this situation often think the doe has been killed or has abandoned her young.  In many cases, the doe may be nearby watching as her fawn is “kidnapped” by well-meaning “rescuers”.  Most fawns brought to wildlife rehabilitators are successfully raised to a release size.  However, when released, they will never display the wariness needed to survive as adults.  Familiarity with humans is not a good survival technique for deer.  Many remain attracted to humans and can become pests in residential areas.  Bucks, in particular, can be dangerous to humans, especially during the rut.  Recommend that anyone finding a young fawn leave it alone unless it is wandering around crying or a dead doe lies nearby.


Please click the links below to read more:

Why Turtles Should be Left in the Wild
- photo taken by Cathy Martin
Turtles Rescued or Kidnapped

Vehicles pose serious threat to turtles crossing roads:

Painted Turtle Healing
Photo Taken By: Vickie Henderson

Painted Turtle Hit By a Car
Photo Taken By: Vickie Henderson

Three Legged Box Turtle
Photo Taken By: Vickie Henderson

This turtle was inappropriately picked up as an intended pet until the finder saw only three legs and thought it needed medical attention.  Turtles are highly adapted to surviving in the wild with three legs.  Since we know where this box turtle came from and turtles of any kind should NOT be taken from the wild, he can be returned to his home range. 


Painted Turtle Being Released
Photo Taken By: Vickie Henderson

More photos coming soon..


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