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I Found a Baby Animal; What Should I Do?

With spring comes the onset of baby season in our fields, forests and neighborhoods.  Did you find a baby mammal? Before you do anything ask yourself these questions: Are you sure that baby is orphaned or is the mother coming back? Do you know which animals are rabies vector species? The following article contains advice from the Phoenix Wildlife Center on Sweet Air Road in Baldwin. Call them before handling any wild animals you may find.


Below are four baby animals you may encounter around your home, and what you should and shouldn't do.



Careful, a fox can carry rabies!

Sometimes people mistake a baby fox for an abandoned puppy. Red foxes are born brown and remain that way for weeks. Fox kits will often appear unsupervised for long periods while their parents are out hunting for food.


If you see them, observe the kits from a distance; if they seem energetic and healthy, leave them alone. If they appear sickly or weak, or if you have reason to believe both parents are dead, contact the Phoenix Wildlife Center and they can advise you on next steps. 



Careful, a raccoon can carry rabies!

Be very careful not to create orphan raccoons by accident. When a baby raccoon is separated from its mother during the night, the baby will stay where it is until the mother returns, which may not be until the next night. People often find a sleeping baby raccoon and will assume it needs to be rescued. However, it is likely that the mother will be back after dark. If the baby raccoon is not in imminent danger, it’s best to observe the baby for another 24 hours without disturbing it.


Always wear gloves when handling baby raccoons. They can carry a variety of diseases including rabies!


Do not handle, feed, or transport injured adult raccoons. Adult raccoons can be very vicious and aggressive, can move quickly, and can cause serious injury to you and themselves.



“I found a nest of ‘orphaned’, eyes-closed baby rabbits. What do I do?”

If the babies’ eyes are still closed, it is under 10 days of age. If the nest is intact, the babies look fat and plump and are nestled snuggly next to each other, and there seems to be no immediate danger to them, then leave them alone! The mother rabbit usually feeds her babies under cover of darkness – early in the morning before sunrise and in the evening after sunset. This is so that a predator cannot easily “see” the mother returning to her nest. She feeds two to three times within 12-hour timeframes. 


“I have found a baby cottontail outside of its nest. Is he okay?”

Baby cottontails go mobile between three and four weeks of age. If the cottontail is roughly the size of a baseball, it is old enough to be fully on its own and there is no need to take any action.


In the spring it is a perfectly natural occurrence to come across a fawn that is seemingly by itself in your yard or garden. The fawn is probably not alone; its mother is nearby, aware, and attentive.


For the first few weeks of the fawn’s life, the doe keeps the fawn hidden except for suckling bouts. The doe may also feed and bed a considerable distance from the fawn’s bed site. This way, even if a predator detects the doe, the fawn may still have a chance of avoiding detection.


When not nursing, the fawn curls up in a bed site and remains motionless, its white spots blending in well with the sun-flecked ground.


The advice to anyone encountering a fawn lying quietly alone in the woods is to leave it alone. Mother will be nearby and will be taking care of it once you move away.


If a fawn appears cold, weak, thin, or injured, and its mother does not return in approximately eight hours, it may be orphaned. If that is the case, call the Phoenix Wildlife Center and they will triage it and send it to the appropriate facility.

Final thoughts:
  • Use extreme caution when rescuing wildlife.

  • Approach animal slowly and quietly.

  • Determine if the animal really needs help.

  • Always have an adult handle a wild animal. Keep children and pets away from the animal!

  • Never use your bare hands. Wear gloves, and use a blanket or towel to catch the animal.

  • Gently place the animal into a cardboard box or paper bag. Make sure it is closed securely for transport.

  • Be careful! A wild animal that is hurt or frightened might bite or scratch.

  • Keep the animal warm, safely contained, and away from loud noises, children, pets, and air conditioning.



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