Babies, Babies, Babies...
1/25/2013 Lori Swanson

In 2012 the wildlife hospital at Woodford Cedar Run Wildlife Refuge accepted a total of 4,296 animals.  Most of these animals were babies or juveniles and were admitted between the months of April and October.  This seven months of our year, every year, is termed "Baby Season” and necessitates extra staff members, as many volunteers as possible, and an exorbitant amount of resources.  Babies require a lot of effort.  For instance, songbird nestlings must be fed at least every 30 minutes for 12 hours a day.  When finders are bringing in up to 5 Robins per clutch or 8 newborn rabbits at a time, this can add up quickly!  Sometimes we forget to feed ourselves!

Our main goal at Woodford Cedar Run is to rehabilitate and release as many animals as possible, but another important goal is educating the public.  It is extremely essential that the public helps to determine if a potential orphaned animal truly needs our help or if the baby is able to be successfully reunited with its mother.  Remaining in their mother’s care is always the best option for a baby and by not receiving unnecessary intakes we are better able to serve the animals that truly need our help.  Many moms are not with their babies at all times of the day or others are in the process of moving their babies when they are found by people.  Even if a baby falls from a tree they are many times able to be reunited.  Sometimes a little patience and help is all that the family needs.  The cooperation of the public is paramount in these efforts because we do not have enough staff to respond to these situations.  Each species is different, so steps toward reuniting families will vary; information regarding these efforts can be found on our website (www.cedarrun.org) and it is always best to attempt these first unless the baby is obviously injured.

One of the most important things to remember is that most information that you find on the internet regarding wildlife babies is not true.  Anyone can post false information on the internet and feeding a baby the incorrect food can lead to developmental and gastrointestinal problems.  Also, if a baby is fed too quickly or improperly they can get fluid in their lungs which is very dangerous.  Please do not feed wildlife babies kitten milk, puppy milk, goat milk, human baby formula, or bread.  Each species that is raised at the hospital is fed a very specific formula or food for that species.  Most babies, if truly orphaned, are dehydrated and must be properly rehydrated by a rehabilitator before suitable formula or solid food can be introduced.  For all of these reasons, the best thing for the baby is to get it to a rehabilitator as soon as possible.  Babies can survive more than 24 hours without food, so even if it must be kept overnight it will be fine.  Warmth, quiet, and a stress-free environment are all that the baby needs before arriving at the hospital. 

Wild animals are easily stressed because they are not accustomed to being close to humans.  Stress can easily kill a wild animal, so human contact must be minimal.  Many children want to hold and pet wild babies and some species may actually sit very still during this interaction.  This is not a sign of contentment in a wild animal, but rather a sign of stress which can either lead to a heart attack or will put an animal into shock, thus exacerbating any problems from which they are already suffering.   A rabbit that is the size of a tennis ball, eyes open, and with its ears up is actually not being cared for by its mother anymore, so any handling is unnecessary stress.  Wild animals, adult or juvenile, are nothing like our domestic pets.  Remember, it is illegal in the state of New Jersey to raise or keep any wild animals unless you are a permitted Wildlife Rehabilitator, and there are good reasons for this law.  On top of the stress that this would cause the animal throughout life, wild animals can carry many diseases and unquestionably carry many parasites that you do not want in your home or around your children.

Above all, be safe, wear gloves, and do the right thing for the animal.  Attempt to keep mothers and babies together if at all possible by utilizing the tips on our website.  If reuniting is impossible, if the effort does not work, or if the baby is injured, call us immediately so that we can get the baby the help that it needs.  For the babies and adult wildlife that do need support, donations are greatly appreciated so that we can give them the best care possible, as Woodford Cedar Run Wildlife Refuge does not receive any state or federal funding.  The staff at Woodford Cedar Run Wildlife Refuge relies greatly on the public to help us find a happy ending for the wild babies in our backyards.  Thank you for all of your efforts in the upcoming "Baby Season!”


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