Yes, You Can Put That Baby Bird Back (And Other Tips for Handling Baby Animals)
Spring is coming up, which means it’s baby animal season. Everyone at some point in their lives has probably seen a baby animal if they live anywhere a park, the forest, or even if there are trees planted along the streets in urban areas. There are a lot of misconceptions about how to handle finding baby animals or the nests of animals, and while these are all with the best intentions in mind, they need to be debunked. The only thing that is true for handling any wild animal is that you should be using a towel or wear thick gloves, and you should wash your hands when you’re done (but we’ve all been washing our hands religiously for a year, hopefully, so that shouldn’t be a big surprise.) I’m not a professional when it comes to animals, but this is what I have on how you should proceed when coming into contact with the young of three different animals.
- Baby birds: The most common misconception is that if you touch a baby bird, the mother will abandon it because it smells you on the baby. However, this is a false misconception due to one very important detail: the idea that birds can actually smell the scent of humans. While it’s false to assume that birds have no sense of smell, the truth is that they don’t really have senses of smell that are attuned to humans, and therefore no instinct to abandon or kill their babies if they smell the smell of human on them. Please put the baby back into its nest if you can, that would be very helpful to the baby.
- Bunnies: Rabbit nests are frequently stumbled across when people are doing yardwork. While it is also a myth in this case that rabbits will abandon their babies when they smell human on them, you still shouldn’t touch the bunnies unless absolutely necessary (IE, they are in medical distress and need help from a vet) because handling them will stress them out. The best thing to do is to mark where the nest is to make sure you don’t accidentally hurt the babies and move on. Sometimes people leave a flour circle around the nest to see if the mom will come back within a day, but this isn’t necessarily a necessary thing to do unless you feel like making sure that the mama rabbit will eventually return to the nest.
- Fawns: For a lot of people who didn’t grow up around deer or otherwise don’t know anything about them, seeing a fawn laying all by itself is a cause for concern. However, fawns are actually the safest when they are left alone like this. Until they are strong enough to properly follow their mothers, fawns are typically left alone while the parent feeds. This is in order to keep predators from being led to the babies, who would be easy target for them. In these instances, you are best off leaving them alone and not moving them or calling someone to move them unless you notice that it’s been an unreasonable amount of time and the mother hasn’t returned.