Here at the Chintimini Wildlife Center, our staff and volunteers both look forward to and brace for BABY SEASON! Of course nursing orphaned animals and reuniting them with their parents has its rewards, not to mention the cuteness factor, but the sheer volume of animals can be very time consuming and is sometimes overwhelming. For example, some newborn songbirds need to be fed every 15 minutes from sun up to sun down! All in all though, it simply is the best and most interesting time of year at the clinic.
This March we have already gotten a taste of many of the tiny patients to come. Let’s take the time, while we have it, to introduce the first of the little ones.
The very first baby birds of the season are not so little. This past week we received a call about a Great Horned Owl nestling that was on the ground under a tree. Apparently a recent rain and wind storm had caused it to fall out of its nest. The caring property owners who had called had noticed the parents feeding him on the ground and heard their calls.
Animal Care Director Kelsey Lance went to rescue the nestling and found it was too young to be out of the nest. He was brought back to the clinic, where staff warmed it up, gave him an exam and found that there were no injuries. He was deemed healthy with a full belly of food, which indicated that his parents had fed him recently.
Once it was clear his parents were taking care of him, it was quickly decided to return him to his nest – which was over 80 feet up in the tree. One of our volunteers who is a trained tree climber successfully renested the young owl by securing a wicker basket filled with moss near the location of the damaged nest. The property owners were very happy to have their resident baby owl back and since have updated us that he is still safely up in the nest being well cared for by its parents.
During the spring time, when trees are being pruned or branches have fallen, baby Western Gray Squirrels are often found on the ground. We’ve recently received three calls about fallen baby squirrels or the whole nest of squirrels. The first involved a tree down, the next heavy tree pruning and the third in which a nest was found under the hood of a car. In these circumstances, ideally the mother will come for the babies and move them one by one to another nest site. The squirrels need to be checked for injuries, hydration, and temperature before safely leaving them to reunite with the mother squirrel, and can only be done during daylight hours-with the exception of the nocturnal Northern Flying Squirrel. CWC Animal Care Staff are available by phone to give instructions on what to do in these situations in order to avoid unnecessarily admitting an otherwise healthy newborn squirrel. Mothers are always the best caretakers for offspring and we were very happy that in all three of these scenarios the mother squirrel came back for her young.
Another baby mammal that comes in early in the season are newborn Cottontail Rabbits. They are especially prone to harm because their nests are on the ground, sometimes on residential lawns. Two baby Cottontails were admitted this March; one had been attacked by a dog and the other by a cat.
Although we are rather successful, baby rabbits are very difficult to rehab. When they are newborns they need to be syringe fed a special formula, of certain amounts at particular intervals. Rabbits have very sensitive GI tracts and stress very easily. We were able to get these two rabbits up to a healthy weight and appropriate release age and release them both in a cat and dog free location.
Because rabbits nest on the ground, we always remind homeowner to be aware and take precautions to protect them from lawnmowers and pets. A rabbits nest consists of a shallow depression in the ground lined with grass and the mother’s fur .
If at all possible, we suggest property owners walk their property prior to doing yard work in an attempt to identify nest locations. Keeping your cat inside, or in a catio and your dog leashed, especially during baby season, can ensure the health and safety of our most vulnerable wildlife during this critical stage in their lives. The CWC Animal Care Staff is available every day with good safety tips and advice if someone is concerned about a nest on their property.
Onto our more “high maintenance” babies of the year – the seven orphaned mallards that were recently admitted. They have a very specific set-up, with a heat-lamp, plenty of cozy bedding and a duster that mimics their mother. Because they are hungry and quite messy little creatures, they require constant cleaning, watering and feeding. These Mallards will remain in the care of CWC until they are older, fully-flighted and released.
If you find what you suspect to be an orphaned baby animal, please do not hesitate to call Chintimini Wildlife Center at 541-745-5324. We are open 7days/week, every day of the year, from 9am-7pm.
If it is after hours, please leave a message and we will return your call the following day. You can refer to our website for details on what you can do in the meantime to help ensure the survival of the orphaned animal.
If you would like to contribute to the care of these tiny creatures, make a donation to our Orphaned Animal Nursery Fund.
And thanks very much for your support of Chintimini Wildlife Center and your interest and dedication to protecting our local wildlife – especially the little ones.