How to help abandoned wild baby animals
Wildlife rescuers have their work cut out caring for young animals that have been orphaned or injured as they take their first furry steps or feathered flaps into the world.
A lack of understanding and interference from well-meaning members of the public can cause an animal to neglect its young.
If in doubt it is always best to call a wildlife rescue centre for advice.
Badgers and foxes
If you find baby badgers or foxes it's likely that their parents are nearby.
If you're worried, observe from a distance for 24 hours or at least overnight before calling a rescue centre.
Only intervene before this if the cubs are in immediate danger.
If you accidentally disturb a sett or den and cause the mother to run away, move a good distance away and leave the cubs where they are. The mother should return and move them to a safer location.
Hares and rabbits
Young hares (leverets) spend most of their time alone.
Their mother will leave them above ground in indents known as "forms".
She usually visits to feed them just once every 24 hours around dusk.
If you are concerned that leverets you have found are abandoned watch them from a safe distance to see if their mother returns. Never pick a leveret up unless it is injured.
Young rabbits will sometimes venture above ground without their parents to explore.
Always observe from a safe distance to ensure that the kittens have been abandoned before interfering. This may mean watching overnight to see if the mother returns.
It is important not to disturb a rabbit's burrow as this may cause the mother to abandon her young.
Fawns are left alone from a very early age as their mothers go off foraging.
They may be found curled up under bushes or in long grasses.
They stay like this to keep hidden from potential predators.
If you think a fawn has been abandoned simply observe from a distance for at least 12 hours or leave it alone and return in 24 hours to see if it has been moved.
Many young birds will leave the nest after they have grown feathers but before they are able to fly and can be seen hopping around on the ground until their feathers develop.
These apparent orphans may in fact just be awaiting the arrival of a foraging parent.
If you find a fledgling in a dangerous position (in the road or vulnerable to attack) it's okay to move it to a safer position so long as you do not move it so far away that returning parents may be unable to find it.
If you find a baby bird without any feathers or that is clearly not yet fledged you can place it back into the nest (using gloved hands) and should monitor it from a distance to ensure the parents continue feeding. If they do not return within an hour or so, contact your local rescue centre for advice.
Parent birds can rear baby birds far more successfully than humans can so it is always best to wait for a parent's return rather than intervene. However, any bird caught by a cat needs an antibiotic injection, even if there are no visible signs of injury.
Experts knows best
If in doubt, always check with an expert, and remember that wildlife rescue centres are always looking for volunteers if you want to get your fix of caring for cute babies without interfering with those under their parents' care.
- Check out the RSPCA's advice on orphaned wild animals and find your nearest RSPCA.
- Surrey-based charity Wildlife Aid has loads of advice on its website as well as a 24 hour emergency helpline.
- St Tiggywinkles Wildlife Hospital has advice on when and how to step in to help birds, badgers, rabbits, hares and deer.