Monday, March 29, 2010

The Orphans are Coming!

As the weather begins to warm up, the Wildlife Clinic has once again begun receiving orphaned baby animals. In Champaign County, Great Horned Owls begin nesting in February, and our first two orphans of the season have been some baby GHO chicks that were healthy despite falling out of their nests. To minimize imprinting on humans, these babies were transferred to the Illinois Raptor Center as quickly as possible to be raised with surrogates. The GHO's time their reproduction so that the can feed their babies with the bounty of offspring produced by other animals beginning in March. Squirrels are some of the first mammals to bear young, and the clinic has received quite a few litters so far. Cotton Tail Rabbits will begin breeding when temperatures are above 60F. There have been more than a few warm days this March and the clinic has had many litters of rabbits as well. In April, song birds begin nesting and other mammals like raccoons will start to bear young.

The First Litter of Squirrels at the Clinic This Spring
The Very First Orphan of the Season, a Baby Great Horned Owl
It is important to remember that wild baby animals best left in the wild to be raised by their parents. Being raised by humans results in higher mortality rates due to difficulty feeding, artificial diets, and high stress levels. Mother rabbits only visit the nest twice a day. If you have found a nest of baby bunnies, place crossed sticks or twigs over the nest and come back in 12 hours to see if they have moved. It is a myth that wild animal mothers (be they mammals or birds) will not come back to their offspring if humans have touched them. The maternal instinct will overcome any potential fear caused by the human scent. Like baby rabbits, baby birds should be put back in their nest if found on the ground. If you cannot reach the nest, or if it has been destroyed, a plastic container or box with small holes in the bottom for drainage can be nailed to the tree the birds came from, and the babies can be put in the artificial nest for their parents to find. Of course, if a baby animal is injured, cold to the touch, or has bugs on it, it should be brought to the clinic for medical attention. These are just some very basic guidelines. If you ever have a questions on wildlife, you should speak to an expert such as the clinic (217-244-1195) or your local wildlife rehabber.

A Nest of Baby Rabbits with
Sticks Crossed Over Top
to See If Mom Returns

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