Every spring, we witness wildlife waking up and exploring its surroundings. The birds nest, the deer forage, turtles cross roads, and the museum’s phone rings off the hook with wildlife questions. More often than not, wildlife is perfectly capable of caring for themselves and their young. Animals are born with natural instincts to help them survive, and some adults care for their young for weeks or even years! If you see an animal alone, don’t assume it is abandoned.
It is important to keep in mind that it is illegal to care for wildlife without proper licensing. Therefore, if you see a wild animal seemingly in distress, observe it from a distance. Below is a list of Alabama wildlife you may encounter and how you can help.
Female deer (does) will “park” their babies (fawn) for up to eight hours while foraging for food. If the fawn is not in a road or in physical distress, watch from a distance for a day to see if the doe returns.
During warm temperatures, we often see turtles crossing the road. If you are a good samaritan and want to help the turtle on its way, please do not take the turtle home! Safely help the turtle cross the road in the direction it is headed. Some turtle species, like the box turtle, live within a one-mile area their entire lives. When moved, some gravid female turtles may become “egg bound” and die because they were relocated and weren’t sure where to lay their eggs. Turtles are stubborn! If you place them on the wrong side, they will turn around and begin their original journey all over again.
Baby cottontail rabbits (kits) are born without any scent. In order to best protect their young, cottontail mothers do not stay with their kits to prevent predators from catching her scent. Mothers will periodically return to feed them. If a nest is found, cover it with grass and twigs, and check back in eight hours to see if it has been disturbed by the returning mother. We recommend walking your yard before mowing this spring, just in case you have a cottontail nest in your lawn!
Have you ever heard, “Don’t touch the baby bird/egg, or the mother will no longer care for it?” Good news! That’s not true! Baby birds can be returned to their nest. Parents will not reject their young if touched. If a baby bird falls from their nest, wear protective gear and very carefully return it to the nest.
Do you see a young bird sadly hopping along the ground? Or making poor attempts to fly? You may be witnessing a bird “fledging”. A baby bird must learn to fly, so often we see their trial and error and the mother bird nearby. If you see a baby bird struggling, observe it first and listen for the adult. If the bird cannot return to its nest and you don’t see an adult nearby, call a licensed rehabilitator for advice.
Do NOT handle raccoons, skunks, foxes, groundhogs, and beavers, as they are often carriers of rabies.
Assess the situation
A baby animal left alone does not always mean they are abandoned.
If an animal is visibly injured, tangled in trash, or a dead parent is nearby, contact the resources below to give the critter its proper care.
Who to contact:
- Outdoor Alabama: 334-242-1814
The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ website (outdooralabama.com) is a great resource for all animal lovers! Visit the Wildlife tab and click Wildlife Rehabilitation for a full list of current wildlife rehabbers.
- Alabama Wildlife Center: Wildlife Helpline: 205-663-7930, Ext. 2.
The Alabama Wildlife Center is a licensed rehabilitation center in Oak Mountain State Park that can care for injured and orphaned birds (including raptors).
- Snake Removal of Calhoun County 256-405-6755
Do you have a slithery friend on your property or in your house who needs to be relocated? Contact the Snake Removal of Calhoun County and they are happy to help!
If you are interested in learning and becoming a licensed wildlife rehabilitator, visit the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources website www.outdooralabama.com to learn more!