Frequently Asked Questions About Wildlife

What do I do if I find a marine mammal?
Horseshoe crabs come to shore every spring to spawn in large numbers, especially around new and full moons. This is normal – please let them be. Often times, your local guard shack, nature center, marine unit, and/or police department has information about local, indigenous wildlife concerns. Many waterfowl and other animals lay their eggs in sand dunes or on the beach. This is normal behavior, and this is why you’ll find protected areas on many beaches. Please do not disturb the wildlife, since this could cause a further decline in populations; especially those who are already threatened and endangered. If you find a marine turtle or mammal that is injured or breached, please call the NYS Marine Mammal and Turtle Stranded Hotline at (631) 369-9829. 

 

What do I do if I find a turtle?
Turtles are often found on roads. Some of those reasons include returning to a nesting spot, looking for a mate, or looking for asphalt to bask in the sun on. It is normal for turtles to return to the same nesting spot each spring as well as lay their eggs on land and then return to water. It is a good idea to notify your local nature center if you notice the hatchlings will need to cross the road to get back to water. In the process of looking for a mate in the spring, turtles will commonly travel long distances. Often they’ll be found crossing roads. If so, help it along to the side of the road towards which it is traveling. Turtles are cold blooded and need to bask in the sun in spring, summer, and fall. Black asphalt roads are especially appealing to them because they retain the heat. Relocate them to a sunny rock instead. If it is a snapping turtle, call an expert! Please note, if you find a turtle with notches or tags on its shell, it could be part of a study. Call around, or search online to see if you can report the turtle sighting. This information is part of research, and you can be part of it!

 

What do I do if I find an injured animal?
Stay calm and get help. You can look at our list of rehabilitators to find the appropriate person to contact. If help is far, use gloves or a towel to put the animal in a warm, quiet, dark place. You can place the animal on a towel in a box and put the box on top of a heating pad, or plastic bottle filled with hot water. Once the animal is in a warm, quiet, dark place, away from stress, note the time, location, and any other information that will assist the rehabilitator/veterinarian to help the animal (such as “found on street” or “attacked by neighbor’s cat.”)

 

What do I do if I find a baby bird?

If the baby is a duck or a gosling, and you know that the mother is dead, or the baby is injured, call a wildlife rehabilitator (see list here).

If the baby is a duck of a gosling, and you know the baby is separated from the mother and you know where she is, place the baby close to the flock so that she can hear the baby. Watch from a distance to see what happens next. If the baby joins the flock and the mother does not reject it, leave the area as the baby is fine. If the mother leaves it, and there is a flock that looks similar, bring the baby closer and watch from a distance. If the flock does not reject it, then the baby will be fine. If the baby is rejected and the mother cannot be found anywhere, call a rehabilitator (see list here).

If the baby bird is hurt, sick, bleeding, vomiting, shivering, lethargic, or attacked by an animal, call a wildlife rehabilitator (see list here).

If the bird is feathered and hopping on the ground, it is a fledgling (learning to fly, like a toddler learning to walk). Keep all pets, people or any other potential threats away, and watch from a distance.

If the baby is a nestling, and you can find the nest and it is intact, leave the area. The baby is fine and the mother will return once the threat is gone. If you cannot find the next, or the nest is no longer intact, place the baby in a surrogate nest close to where it was found, off the ground (in a tree or bush), and out of the way of rain, sun, etc. The distress call of the baby will eventually bring the parent back. Watch from a distance, out of sound and sight.

If the parents are visiting the nest or the den, leave the area. The baby is fine and the mother will return once the threat is gone. Please note that you may have to stay out of sight/undercover for several hours as the parents will not return if they sense danger. Parents may also become aggressive if they see you as a threat. If the parents do not return after multiple hours, call a rehabilitator (see list here).

 

What do I do if I find a baby mammal?

Baby Rabbit: If the nest is still intact, wearing gloves or using a towel, place the baby or babies back into the nest and cover with leaves, grass, or twigs. The nest will be a shallow depression in the ground, lined with fur. It most likely will be located under a bush, in a garden, lawn, or other form of cover. Once you have done this, leave the area as the mother may not return if a person, or another source of danger, is present. The mother usually visits the nest at dawn and dusk to feed the babies. You can criss-cross pieces of yarn over the top of the nest and you’ll know that the mother is coming to the nest if you see that the yarn has been moved. Unless you know that the mother has been injured or killed, the babies do not need to be saved.

Rabbits are old enough to be on their own at three to four weeks of age. If the baby rabbits are at least four to five inches long, able to hop, have their eyes open and ears up, and there are no visible signs of injury, leave them alone. 

Fawn (Baby Deer): Mothers normally leave their babies alone while they forage for food. Call a wildlife rehabilitator (see list here) if:

  • the baby looks cold, hungry, diseased or confused
  • dogs or other animals or people are threatening their safety
  • you know the mother is no longer alive

If none of the above circumstances apply, leave the fawn be. The mother will not return if people, pets, or any sign of danger is present.

Opossum: Young opossums who are five to six inches long, excluding their tail, are large enough to be independent from their mothers. If you find an opossum that fits this description and does not seem to be in distress, leave it alone. If you are uncertain of whether or not the animal is in distress, call a licensed rehabilitator (see list here).

If the the baby opossum is hurt, sick, bleeding, vomiting, shivering, lethargic, or looks like it has been attacked by another animal, call a rehabilitator (see list here).

If you can find the nest or den, and it is intact, place the baby in its nest/den. Remember to wear gloves when doing so, and keep all pets and people away. Watch from a distance. If you cannot find the nest/den, place the baby in a surrogate nest that is close to where it was found and off the ground. You can find a description of how to build a nest below. Keep all pets and people away and watch from a distance. 

If the parents are visiting the nest or the den, leave the area. The baby is fine and the mother will return once the threat is gone. Please note that you may have to stay out of sight/undercover for several hours as the parents will not return if they sense danger. Parents may also become aggressive if they see you as a threat. If the parents do not return after multiple hours, call a rehabilitator (see list here).

 

How do I make a surrogate nest?
Find a container such as a basket or box. Make sure it is not plastic as it can fill with water or fluids. You can then fill the box with leaves, paper towels, or a soft, clean cloth. Place the nest in the tree or bush closest to where the animal was found, out of the sun and rain, and as high up as you can manage. Finally, place the animal in the nest and leave the area. The mother will hear the distress calls and return to the baby(ies) to care for them or move them to a safer place!

 

How do I safely contain a wild animal to transport to a wildlife rehabilitation center?

Find a suitable container (cardboard box, pet carrier, shoebox) and poke air holes in it. If needed, line it with a soft, clean cloth. Make sure to wear gloves and gently pick up the animal and place them in the container. If a heating pad is available, please the container on the heating pad at the lowest setting. Another option would be to use a hot water bottle or plastic soda bottle covered in a towel. You can place that in the container next to the animal for warmth. Make sure to secure the container so the animal cannot crawl or jump out. Keep the container in a warm, dark, and quite place and do not administer food or water or leave the animal alone. Take the animal to a licensed wildlife rehabilitator as soon as possible. 

NOTE: It is illegal in New York State to possess any wild animal unless you are transporting it to a NYS wildlife rehabilitator. It is also illegal to keep any wild animal as a pet. Any violations should be reported to the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Law Enforcement. For more info: (845) 256-3098.

 

A few general notes:

  • Every year, many people upset the lives of young wild animals when they only mean to help. They take fledgling birds, young rabbits, or other animals from the wild in a mistaken attempt to save them. Please read through our FAQ’s to ensure that you are taking the proper action when looking to help an animal in need.
  • If the animal is not injured, please do not remove it from its location to be rescued unless you are certain that the mother is injured or killed. All mammals are nursed by their mother until they are weaned. All species of mammals are weaned at different ages and each species requires a specific formula. Feeding regular milk can cause further harm, or even death, to some animals Just stay calm and keep the animal in a warm, dark, quiet place until you have contacted a wildlife rehabilitator.

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