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Posted on 03-11-2013

Imagine that you are walking in the mall and you see a small child who is obviously separated from its parent. Do you simply take that child home to raise as your own or do you look around to see if the parent is nearby. Do you contact the nearest authorities and let them handle it using their experience and training to keep the child safe so it can be returned to their normal life as quickly as possible?

Every spring wild animals are separated from their mothers by well-meaning people. Severe weather, pets and humans are often responsible for these separations, but with a little bit of effort, we can avoid “critternapping” these babies and help them get back where they belong.

We’ll start with a little bit of background information on common urban and suburban wildlife.

· Mother rabbits only visit their nest twice a day and are only there for a few minutes at a time, otherwise they would attract predators to their babies. If you want to know if a mother rabbit has returned to the nest, you can place an “X” of dental floss over the nest and check back 12-18 hours later and see if it is disturbed before deciding if the babies have been abandoned.

· Squirrels will retrieve their young from the ground if they are left near the nest.

· Birds will still feed their young on the ground or in an artificial nest. Nests can be made from a produce basket or butter tub with holes in the bottom to prevent flooding. Place shredded newspaper or paper towel in the nest and nail it to the suspected nesting tree as high as possible. Place babies inside and observe for signs of the mother returning to care for them.

· Wild animals have strong maternal instincts and will not reject their young because of human scent on them, and birds have virtually no sense of smell.

· The best situation for any wild baby is to be reunited with its mother.

There are cases where a reunion is not possible, such as when the mother is known to be injured or deceased, or the babies themselves are injured. In these cases, the next best thing is to get them to a qualified wildlife rehabilitator as quickly as possible. Wildlife rehabbers have gone through extensive training and have valuable experience dealing with their chosen species. They volunteer their time and money with the sole purpose of getting these animals back where they belong. They can be found through links and contact information below.

http://dfwwildlife.org/ The DFW Wildlife Hotline is staffed entirely by volunteers who can put you in touch with qualified wildlife rehabbers in your area and offer advice on the immediate wildlife situation. Please be patient when waiting for calls to be returned. Most volunteers work and have other obligations as well, so it may take 1-2 hours for a call to be returned. The website has great information on what to do in the meantime.

http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/huntwild/wild/rehab/list/ Texas Parks and Wildlife oversees the licensing and permitting of wildlife rehabilitators and has an extensive list arranged by county. Many of the rehabilitators have sub-permittees working under their licenses, so don’t be alarmed if the person responding to your call is not on the list. Feel free to ask about their permit/license status if you have questions about their qualifications.

http://www.911wildlife.com/ 911 Wildlife is a private company that was started by wildlife rehabilitators with the primary focus of keeping urban and suburban wildlife from becoming a nuisance and winding up injured or orphaned. They do free consultations of homes, neighborhoods and businesses and only use humane exclusion methods so animals stay in their home territory, but are not causing problems with people, pets or structures.

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