Wildlife Emergencies

Accidental Kidnappings

Countless young wild animals are accidently kidnapped each year by well-meaning individuals whose intention is to rescue the animal(s).  This mistake is most frequently made do to common myths or misinterpretations of natural behavior of different species.

Here at WildCare, some of the most commonly kidnapped animals are fledgling songbirds, young cottontails, and fawns.   Below are some flowcharts, tips, and guidelines to help you avoid accidental kidnapping, reunite healthy babies with their parents when necessary, and rescue when appropriate.

It is myth that birds will not care for their young if you touch them.

  • Most birds have an extremely poor sense of smell.  They will not be able to detect human scent on their young, and will care for their babies if reunited.  If a nestling bird falls from the nest, he can be reunited by being returned to the nest as long as he has not been injured.  
  • View the songbird flowchart for more information.

A young bird that is not able to fly may not be injured.

  • Fledglings are young birds that have all or most of their adult feathers and are ready to be out of the nest.  However, it may be several days between when they leave the nest and when they are able to sustain flight.  It is at this stage that they are most commonly kidnapped.  It is crucial that they remain in the care of their parents during this transitional time as they learn to fly, communicate, and find food.  
  • View the songbird flowchart for more information.
Songbird - Wildcare Foundation Oklahoma

Cottontails found without an adult present are most likely NOT orphans.

  • Mother cottontails build well-camouflaged nests and do not stay with their babies in an effort to avoid attracting predators to the hidden nest.  They will only go to the nest once at dawn and once at dusk to feed.
  • Cottontails are weaned and independent at a very young age, typically between 5 and 6 weeks old.  At this age they are only about the size of a tennis ball, but are ready to be on their own and do not need rescue unless they have been injured.
  • View the cottontail flowchart for more information.
Wildcare Foundation Oklahoma
Cottontails - Wildcare Foundation Oklahoma

Fawns found alone are most likely NOT orphans

  • Mother deer may spend as long as 6-7 hours away from their fawns.  They leave their young in a safe place and return later to feed.  The fawn may wander during that time, which is okay since they have glands on their legs that leave a scent trail for mom to follow and locate her baby.
  • You may not spot an adult deer in the area but generally, if you can see the fawn, mom can see you!  Give fawns space so mom can feel safe to return and feed her baby.
  • Signs that a fawn is a true orphan include:  severe tick infestation on the face, constant calling, front legs splayed out to the side when sitting, and emaciation/dehydration. 
  • View the fawn flowchart for more information.
This Fawn is not an oprhan - Wildcare Foundation Oklahoma