Photo: Help wildlife babies stay wild

Leave young fledglings — baby birds with feathers — alone. Its parents are probably keeping a close watch nearby. (Credit: Jo Naylor via Flickr)

June is one of my favourite times of year — a time for animal babies. I don't mean kittens and puppies (although they're cute, too). I'm referring to goslings and ducklings, fawns, even baby skunks.

An up-close encounter with a baby wild animal may not start on a good note. But by following a few simple guidelines, you can keep the "wild" in wildlife.

If you find an orphaned baby bird

Look up. Young fledglings (not naked but well-feathered) often fall from their nests when learning how to fly. Spending a day or two on the ground isn't unusual. Leave the little bird alone. Its parents are probably keeping a lookout. If you suspect its in danger from prowling cats or speeding cars, put it back in the nest. Don't worry. Unlike baby mammals, your scent won't bother mom and dad birds. Unsure if it's truly orphaned? Call your local wildlife rehabilitation centre:

If you find an injured animal

If you come across a sick or injured wild animal, don't try to capture it. And don't pet or talk to the animal either. That just creates more stress. Call the closest wildlife rehabilitation facility (see the short list above). Their trained staff can provide humane care to injured, orphaned, sick, and distressed wildlife. About 80 per cent of the time, wild animals turned-in have been hurt by human activity, such as collisions with cars or power lines, or encounters with cats and dogs. Never handle a wild animal if it puts your safety at risk.

Keep your cat from injuring wild birds

Being a trained ornithologist is one way to help protect birds. But successful bird conservation can start at home. Own a cat? They aren't as innocent as they look. Nature Canada estimates that 140 million birds and small animals are killed each year by — you guessed it — your cats. Many pet owners choose to keep their cats indoors for this very reason. Outfitting Fluffy with a bell is one option, but it's rarely works. Keep cats indoors during sensitive times like the bird-breeding season.

Maybe you're interested in volunteering for a rescue or rehabilitation facility? I did. I had such rewarding experience at the Strathcona Raptor Shelter. Where else can you help nurse wildlife back to health AND release a Great Horned Owl back into the wild?

How have you helped sick, injured, or orphaned wildlife?

Lindsay Coulter, Queen of Green

June 6, 2011

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Apr 27, 2017
5:56 AM

Would be great if you added the group in Manitoba, Prairie Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre. The superheroes of all creatures great and small.

Jun 08, 2011
10:49 AM

I rescued three orphaned raccoons two weeks ago. It took me 6 hours of phone calls to find a wildlife rehab centre that would take them. Since raccoons are vectors for rabies, many wildlife centres refuse them now and many are struggling with the spring influx of hurt animals and are overworked and financially struggling.

Although the raccoon babies are being looked after now, it was a very depressing insight into wildlife rehab. There’s so little money and the volunteers work so very hard.

Jun 08, 2011
10:13 AM

I have successfully reared/rehabilitated 3 young birds, up to and including teaching them to fly. Great experiences, and I felt I was doing my part for Mother Earth. Nowadays, with a domesticated lovebird who rules the house, I couldn’t undertake such a task again.

Jun 07, 2011
11:48 AM

This just happened to my girlfriend and I. We found a Japanese white eye fledgling the other day by my work (I work nights). It actually looked a lot like the one pictured here. Saw him struggling — he actually flew headfirst into a curb, but I didn’t think much of it and we went out to eat. When we came back an hour later he was still there. Still not flying too well. His parent birds were chirping. Two cats and a mongoose were lurking around trying to find him. We ended up trapping him in a box — he was going to be a meal in a couple minutes. We couldn’t find the nest and it was getting pretty late. So my girlfriend took him home, set him up for the night and tried to mostly unsuccessfully feed him. He never ended up looking too good and I thought he might die that night. Decided his best chance was back by my work. So took him back to my work the next morning. I could never definitively find the nest so I put him in a basket and hung it in a tree (I figured that was the closest I could get — give him a little protection) where I saw what I thought were his parent birds flying around. A bird — I guess his mom — came right to him. They chirped a bunch and when I turned my back for a minute they were gone. So I’m hoping a little rest did him good and he made it OK. I think he did. And I know we couldn’t have taken care of the little guy.

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