I Found a Baby…
by Carmel de Bertaut
“I found a baby, what do I feed it?”
Every spring and summer this question is asked of the Wildlife Center’s staff and volunteers many times over. We receive approximately 5,000 animals annually; most of these orphaned young. Many people think it would be fun to keep a found baby as a pet or they may think they can raise it and eventually release it to the wild.
Over the years, the media and entertainment industries (most recently, the book and film adaptation of Harry Potter) have glorified the ownership of wild animals. This, however, is never a good idea.
Wild animals have specialized diets and needs. They receive the best possible care from their own parents, but if abandoned or orphaned can be brought to a wildlife care facility. Without the correct diet these animals will not survive. Many animals brought to us after receiving well-intentioned care for several days are suffering from metabolic bone disease, a condition that may cause them irreversible and fatal harm. They can also die from high or low blood sugar, or many other conditions and diseases. Wild animals mask signs of illness as a means of survival; a sick animal will be seen by predators as an easy meal. In rehabilitation facilities such as WCSV, wildlife staff and volunteers are trained to recognize and treat the more subtle signs of illness and other problems.
Another consideration that needs to be taken into account is that as some of these animals grow in size and strength they become dangerous. An example of this is the Snowy Owl used in the Harry Potter film. This animal’s talons could pierce the hand of a small child. The talons of a Great Horned Owl or a Golden Eagle could easily go through the hand of an adult. As mammals grow, they become more aggressive and will bite and scratch to defend themselves when feeling threatened, or when in the search of food. The teeth of predatory mammals are designed to rip open skin; they can inflict serious damage to a human. Squirrel teeth can crack walnuts—their bite can cause a serious wound. Proper training is necessary to handle all wildlife species.
An animal that is released into the wild without proper conditioning or that has been raised alone does not stand a good chance of survival. They will not have the ability to find food and shelter; those raised alone from a young age become imprinted; that is, they believe themselves to be human—not one of their own species.
Please help us spread the word that wild animals cannot and should not be made into pets or rehabilitated by someone that does not have proper training.