If you have found a baby wild mammal, it is important to determine if the animal really needs help. Follow these steps to determine if a baby mammal need rescuing. Please remember that wild animals need specialized care and medical treatment that only a licensed wildlife rehabilitator can provide. In Ontario, it is illegal for the general public to care for wildlife.
1. Does the animal show signs of illness or injury?
Signs that a baby or adult wild mammal needs rescuing include:
- it appears friendly, is vocalizing, or following people or pets
- it is dehydrated, or emaciated
- it is weak or non-responsive
- it is cold, wet or shivering (this might be a temporary rescue)
- it is bleeding, or has wounds or a broken bone
- it has breathing problems
- it has discharge from the eyes, nose or mouth
- it has bugs or flies on its body
- it shows neurological symptoms, such as seizures, head tilting, losing balance, walking in circles
- it was handled by a cat or dog even if there are no obvious wounds
- it is near dead adults or siblings
- it is in imminent danger, such as near a road or predators
- it has not been reunited with its mother after a few hours
If you find wildlife with any (even just one) of these symptoms, please contact a wildlife rehabilitator and follow the temporary care instructions below.
If you are unsure whether a baby mammal needs rescuing, err on the side of caution and call us for advice.
2. Is the baby really orphaned?
If there are no signs of illness or injury, it may be possible to reunite a baby with its mother. In other cases, it may be normal for some species to leave their young alone or the baby might be old enough to survive on its own. Follow the links below for further information.
- Woodchucks (groundhogs)
- Other species
3. Temporary care instructions
Once you determine that a wild mammal needs rescuing, please contact a wildlife rehabilitator and take the following steps until you can reach wildlife rehabilitator for advice.
Remember to wear protective gloves and do not try to handle any adult wildlife yourself. If it is safe to do so, try to corral an adult mammal into a box or pet carrier. You can use a towel to scoop up a baby animal. If it is not safe to catch the animal, try to block it off to prevent its escape and call the City of Ottawa for rescue help at 311.
- Place the animal in a covered box or pet carrier with ventilation. You can use an old t-shirt or other ravel-free material as bedding. Do not use towels and make sure there are no holes or loose threads. Cover the carrier with a towel or sheet to keep it dark.
- Leave the carrier in a warm, dark and quiet place indoors, away from pets and people. Please do not cause unnecessary stress by handling, talking to or peeking at the animal.
- All baby animals need to be kept warm. Put the box half-on and half-off a heating pad set to low, so that the animal can move to the non-heated side if it is too warm. Never place an animal directly on a heating pad. You can also fill a soda bottle with hot water, wrap it in a towel and brace it inside the box so that it does not roll on the animal. Replace the hot water frequently as it cools down.
- NEVER give the animal any food, milk, formula or water until you have talked to a wildlife rehabilitator. Feeding the wrong thing, at the wrong time or in the wrong way can harm the animal.
- To reduce stress during transportation, please turn the radio off and leave your children and pets at home.