Mississippi is home to over 1,500 species of animals and nearly 3,000 species of plants. It is likely that you will come across wildlife that are (or appear to be) injured or abandoned.
I Found an Injured Animal
If you found an animal with obvious injuries, contact a wildlife rehabber in your area. See our list of rehabilitation organizations for contact information. Please note- the Jackson Zoo only takes injured/orphaned birds of prey (owls, hawks, eagles, vultures). Talk with the rehabber before picking up any wild animal.
I Found a Baby Animal
Often young animals that might appear to be orphaned, may be picked up by an adult if they are simply left alone. Although it may be difficult, the best action in many cases is to leave wildlife alone. Contact a rehabber in your area if:
- the animal is obviously injured (bleeding, vomiting, attacked by cat/dog)
- the mother is known to be dead
- there are flies around the baby and/or there are white/yellow clumps of fly eggs in the baby’s fur (especially around the eyes, ears, mouth, armpits, anus). These will hatch into maggots that will begin to feed on the baby.
If the baby has suffered no injuries and the mother’s whereabouts are unknown, do not offer the baby food or water, as these can harm the animal.
After reading below, check out this flowchart on what you can do to help.
A mother doe leaves her fawn alone for up to 22 hours a day while she goes to forage. The fawn has virtually no scent and can lay motionless for many hours. This defense technique is very effective against natural predators. It is not uncommon to see a fawn curled up quietly in a residential yard, on the roadside, or even on your front porch.
If a fawn is found:
Please leave it alone. Keep the area as quiet as possible, free of people and pets.
If the fawn has already been removed from the wild:
It should be returned to where it was found, where the mother doe is almost certainly waiting. The returned fawn should be places as close as possible to the original location and left along. The doe will return when she feels it is safe to do so.
Call a wildlife rehabber for instruction on any situation not covered above.
Cotton tail rabbit bear young in shallow depression in the ground. The nest is lined with fur from the mother’s belly. Baby rabbits may venture from the nest as soon as two weeks after birth. At age three to four week, a cottontail rabbit is roughly the size of a tennis ball and is able to live independently.
If you discover an occupied nest in your yard:
Keep pets and children away. A lawnmower or propped wheelbarrow can be placed over the nest to protect it while still allowing the mother rabbit to fit under to feed her young. Temporarily disable or mark a lawnmower to ensure that it is not started over the nest.
If you believe the mother has abandoned the nest:
A healthy mother rabbit will visit the nest for only a short time each night. While the mother rabbit is most likely close by, she will rarely make herself visible. Place two pieces of string or yarn over the nest in an “X”. Check the following morning to see if the mother has displaces the string. If the string is still in place, it does not necessarily mean the babies are abandoned. Contact a wildlife rehabber for information on determining if the babies are being cared for.
If the nest has been disturbed:
By humans: locate the nest and return the young. Cover the babies with nesting material. Follow directions on protecting the nest and determining if the nest has been abandoned. The mother rabbit will not abandon her young due to human scent.
By a dog or cat: contact a wildlife rehabber is the babies are obviously injured. If no injury is observed, locate the nest and return the babies. Follow directions on protecting the nest and determining if the nest has been abandoned. Keep pets away from the nest area.
The opossum is the only marsupial native to North America. When babies are born they are the size of a honeybee. Their front legs are fully formed, allowing them to pull themselves up to the mother’s belly and into her pouch. A mother opossum may have up to 13 young in her pouch. These babies may be displaced if their mother runs to evade predators or is injured. Opossums with a body length of less than 7 inches (not including the tail) are not able to survive without their mother.
If a baby opossum is found:
Keep the opossum/s in a warm quiet place. Search the area for other babies. If the mother is dead, it may be necessary to look inside the pouch. always wear protective gear. Contact a wildlife rehabber for further instructions.
If one or more baby raccoons are found on the ground: The babies should be placed in a secure container and kept in a dark quiet place. The container should be deep enough that the babies cannot escape but still allow the adult raccoon to retrieve her young. At dusk, place the container on the ground where the babies were found. Leave the box outside from dusk until daylight. Keep the area dark, quiet and clear of people and pets. If the mother does not return by daylight, contact a wildlife rehabber for further instruction. Never feed a baby raccoon. Improper food can cause serious medical problems.
If a den tree has fallen or been cut down: Gather young and place in secure towel lined box in a dark quiet place. Place the box close to the downed tree den. Keep the area clear of humans and pets and replace the young at dusk. If the babies are not retrieved by daylight, call a wildlife rehabber for further instruction.
If several young are found in a trash can or dumpster: It is likely that they have followed their mother in the search for food and were unable to free themselves. Raccoons at this age should not be handled. Simply turn the trash can onto its side to free the young. A board or tree branch with proper traction can be placed diagonally in a dumpster to give the raccoons a means to climb out safely. Raccoons are nocturnal and may not exit the dumpster until it is dark and quiet.
If one or several raccoon babies are observed in a tree: A mother raccoon may leave her babies precariously perched in a tree where they are easily visible. Attempts to rescue these youngsters may result in the emergence of a very angry mother raccoon. If the baby raccoons have been observed in the same spot for over 24 hours, contact a wildlife rehabber for further instruction.
Waterfowl young are precocial, meaning they are mobile and capable of feeding themselves immediately after hatching. However, they are still reliant on their parents for guidance, warmth and protection.
When ducklings and goslings hatch, the mother will lead the brood to water. The selected water source may be up to a mile away from the nest site. On this journey the family may face busy roads, fenced yards, storm drains and other obstacles. Whenever possible, it is best to clear the way and let the mother do her job. See the information below if it is believed that human intervention is needed.
If you find a single baby duckling or gosling: Search the area for the rest of the family. The family will have young that are the same size as the single baby. If the family is observed, place the single baby as close to them as possible. Monitor constantly for 30 minutes to one hour. If the baby is accepted at this time, continue to check the status every couple of hours throughout the day. If the baby is rejected, or the family cannot be located, contact the Wildlife Rescue Center for further instruction.
If a family of waterfowl is attempting to cross a busy road: Baby waterfowl may be separated from their parent(s) on the way to the water or may be unable to access the water due to nest location. Human intervention is sometimes necessary in these cases. Parent(s) will follow their young as long as they can hear the babies vocalizing. Collect them in an open box. Exercise caution when handling young with agitated parents present. While carrying the open box, lead the parent(s) to the water or out of the area where the young were confined. Set the box on the ground on its side and leave the area to allow the family to reunite.
Many species of birds such as robins, scrub jays, crows and owls leave the nest and spend as many as 2-5 days on the ground before they can fly. This is a normal and vital part of the young birds’ development. While they are on the ground, the birds are cared for and protected by their parents and are taught vital life skills (finding food, identifying predators, flying). Taking these birds into captivity denies them the opportunity to learn skills they will need to survive in the wild. Unless a bird is injured, it is essential to leave them outside to learn from their parents.
Nestling on the ground: If you are concerned that a bird fell from its nest too early, you may try and return the bird to its nest. If the nest has been destroyed or is unreachable, you may substitute a strawberry basket or small box lined with tissue and suspend it from a branch near to where you believe its nest is located. Birds have a poor sense of smell and very strong parental instincts, which means they will usually continue caring for their young. However, adult birds are cautious after any type of disturbance and it may take several hours before they approach the nestling. During this period it is essential that humans not approach the nestling.
Fledgling on the ground: Fledglings are typically fully feathered, with a short tail and wings. They are able to walk, hop and flap, and they may attempt short flights, but are still being cared for by the parents. If you find a fledgling, it should be left alone or at the most placed in a nearby shrub. Keep people and pets away so the parents will continue to care for it until it can fly. Placing fledglings back into nests is typically only a short-term solution, as they will quickly re-emerge. Moving fledglings to entirely new locations is also ineffective, as they are still dependent on their parents for survival and will quickly starve.
Habitat destruction, road kill mortality and slow reproductive rates make turtles among the more vulnerable animals. Please read below and spread the word on how to help our wild turtles thrive.
If you find a healthy turtle in your yard: It could be a female turtle selecting a nest site, perhaps a male looking for a mate. If it is not injured the best thing to is leave it alone and observe from a distance, allowing it to carry on in its ecological niche undisturbed.
If you find a healthy turtle in the road:
Move the turtle across the road in the direction it was headed. Large turtles, such as the common snapping turtle, can be gently pushed out of the road with a blunt object. Once safely on the roadside, observe the turtle momentarily to make sure it continues heading away from the road.
If you find an injured turtle:
Gently collect the turtle and put it in a clean, dry container in a warm but shaded area away from pets or potential predators. Do not attempt to apply any type of first aid. Call a wildlife rehabber, such as Central MS Turtle Rescue at (601) 845-1932 ; 601) 672-1418 (text only, please); firstname.lastname@example.org . Central MS Turtle Rescue is a home-based facility run by a husband and wife team, who pay for all treatment from pocket. Please consider donating to them.
NEVER release a turtle directly into a lake/pond unless you are absolutely positive that it is an aquatic turtle. Box turtles (that look a whole lot less “boxy” when they’re babies) cannot swim. If you mistakenly throw a box turtle into a pond, it will drown. It’s best to set a turtle down near the water, but not in it.
NEVER relocate a box turtle. Research shows that box turtles have homing instincts and can spend all of their energy trying to return to their home. In doing so they will cross roads, railroad tracks and encounter predators all along the way. They are much better off if they can remain in the territory they are familiar with. A turtle may spend its whole life, over 50 years, in an area smaller than three football fields.
The harvest, possession, shipment, sale and transport of turtle or tortoise eggs of any species is prohibited. (Public Notice 2552) – Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks
Gray squirrels bear up 2-4 young in cavities or nests situated high in trees. The nest, approximately the size of a basketball, looks like a wad of leaves and sticks stuffed between branches. Squirrels may also nest in structures or tree cavities; cavities occupied by squirrels have an opening diameter approximately three inches.
Gray squirrels are active during the day (diurnal) and retreat to their nests at night. Young gray squirrels are cared for in the nest by the mother squirrel for approximately 10 weeks. The juvenile squirrels can be seen adventuring from the nest at about 6-7 weeks and start the weaning process at 8 weeks.
If you find an uninjured baby squirrel on the ground:
Squirrel mothers are very attentive and will almost always retrieve their young if given the opportunity. If the squirrel is not injured, it should be reunited with the mother. The nest should be in a tree near where the squirrel was found; look for signs of nesting using the above information.
Ensure the baby squirrel is warm: a cold (sickly) baby is not likely to be retrieved by the mother. A chilled squirrel can be warmed by wrapping it in a warm washcloth (place a dry washcloth in the microwave for 20-30 seconds); replace the washcloth as it cools every couple of minutes.
Heat sources used for reuniting: • fill a sock with 1 cup of rice, birdseed, dried beans, or dried corn • tie the sock end, ensure there are no holes • microwave the sock for approximately 30 seconds. (should be warm when placed on the underside of the wrist, not hot)
Once the baby is warm: place the baby squirrel in a small plastic container (adapted milk jug, ice cream bucket, cool whip container, etc). Punch holes in the bottom of the container to allow for drainage. Attach the container to the nest tree (or closest tree to where found) as high as you are able to reach; avoid exposing it to harsh elements such as strong direct sunlight. Place the baby inside the container, uncovered, to allow for full visibility of the baby by the mother. If temperature is below 85 degrees, provide a heat source* to help the baby maintain body temperature. If the baby is not retrieved by nightfall, bring the baby indoors for the evening. Keep the baby in a secure container (shoebox works best!) Over a heating pad on low; the baby should have the opportunity to crawl away from the heat. At dawn, return the baby to the reuniting site. Healthy baby squirrels should be available for the mother squirrel to retrieve during daylight hours for a maximum of two-12 hour periods. If reuniting is not successful after two days, contact a wildlife rehabber.
Under no circumstances should you attempt to feed a baby squirrel! Feeding orphaned wildlife can be harmful to the animal and may decrease the chance of reuniting with the mother squirrel.
If you have already fed, please contact a wildlife rehabber.
If you find an injured squirrel on the ground:
If the baby is obviously injured (bleeding, broken bones, open wounds, etc) call your nearest wildlife rehabber.
If a pet brings a baby squirrel home:
If the baby is obviously injured (bleeding, broken bones, open wounds, etc) take it to your nearest wildlife rehabber. If the baby is not injured, locate the nest and follow instructions above for reuniting with the mother.
If a tree has been cut down or has fallen that contains a nest:
Baby squirrels can often survive a fall with little to no injury. Mother gray squirrels have more than one nest site maintained at a time; a mother squirrel will move her young to another nest due to a variety of natural reasons (flea infestations, storm damage, etc).
If the nest is intact: leave the section of the fallen tree with the nest as close to the original tree location as possible. Clear the area of any activity to allow the mother squirrel to retrieve her young and take them to an alternate nest site. If the baby is not retrieved by nightfall, bring the baby indoors for the evening. Keep the baby in a secure container (shoebox works best!) Over a heating pad on low; the baby should have the opportunity to crawl away from the heat. At dawn, return the baby to the reuniting site. Healthy baby squirrels should be available for the mother squirrel to retrieve during daylight hours for a maximum of two-12 hour periods. If reuniting is not successful after two days, contact a wildlife rehabber.
If the nest is destroyed: follow the reuniting instructions above titled “if you find an uninjured baby squirrel on the ground”
I have a nuisance animal
Bats are often persecuted due to the fact that most people do not understand of bat ecology and the important role they play in the ecosystem. It is highly unusual for a bat to contact a person, though a sick bat may have no fear of humans or other animals. Bats should never be handled at any time, especially when found on the ground or in a home.
If a bat is found in your home, contact a certified wildlife control operator. If you are not able to contact a wildlife control operator, always wear thick leather gloves and use a net, towel, plastic container, or other method for capturing. NEVER try to catch a bat with your bare hands! Unless you are 100% certain the bat in your home had no contact with anyone, bats found inside your home should be taken to your local health department for rabies testing. Even though rabies in bats is not common on a statistical basis, rabies is a deadly disease.
Bats only become a problem when they decide to use an attic or other section of a home or building for a roosting or nursery colony. Accumulations of their droppings (guano) can cause odor and bug problems. Bats are adapting to man-made structures. They are able to locate very small openings into homes and buildings. Bats do not chew their way into structures, they use gaps and holes that already exist, and locate them by sensing air currents and temperature.
The cool air from your home can escape into the attic through very small cracks and holes, and the bats simply follow the currents to the source, accidentally ending up in your living area. Sometimes the bats that enter the home are young and trying to find their way outside for the first time.
Until exclusion can be performed, minimize accident by sealing all holes and cracks leading from the attic into your living areas. Holes along TV cables, water pipes, and cracks in drywall or gaps in ceiling tiles are all possible entrance points. Gaps under doors leading to attics and closets are common entry points. Remember, it is illegal to kill bats, as most are state protected and some federally protected. It is also illegal to use any type of poisons or chemicals for bats.
Bat exclusion measures should not be performed from mid-May through early-August, as there may be young bats in the colony that are still unable to fly. The young bats would die without their mothers, and an attic full of dead animals is much worse than having the bats roosting there. The infestation of ecto-parasites and other insects attracted by the dead bats can cause problems even more serious than the bats living there.
Bat houses are becoming much more popular. Bats consume marvelous numbers of night-flying insects, and will work long hours for free if you simply provide them a home. The combination of mosquito reduction along with less use of chemicals is a win-win situation.
More information can be found at the Bat Conservation International at batcon.org. Check out the criteria for bat house locations.
Once, swifts nested in hollow tree, but now these trees are lost to land was cleared for farming and development. Chimney swifts have switched from the old growth trees to our chimneys. Today we encourage the practice of chimney-capping to prevent conflicts with other species, and build many houses without fireplaces and chimneys taking nesting habitat away from these birds.
Common problems Today, many houses are built with chimneys that use smaller metal flue pipes rather than clay liners. These metal flues can sometimes be death traps for animals, who cannot grip the slippery metal and may even fall into the fireplace. Swifts nests are small cup-shaped structures constructed of small twigs and glued to the chimney wall with saliva. They are not a fire hazard, being far too small for that, but should always be removed after the birds have left in the fall. Swifts do tend to return to the same nesting site year after year, if available.
Solutions The rules regarding swifts in chimneys are simple. First, delay the annual cleaning until after young have left the nest. Although you may hear the noises of young birds as they beg for food, these are only temporary and should be tolerated. Ask your chimney sweep to come back in the fall if swifts are in occupancy earlier in the season. Chimney swifts are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and anyone who knowingly destroys birds or nests that might contain eggs or young can be fined or penalized. Finally, chimneys lined with metal should always be capped, as birds that enter these can easily become trapped.
Find more information at http://www.chimneyswifts.org/
There are some species of animals we would like to encourage to come to our backyards, such as hummingbirds, songbirds, honeybees, etc. These animals also need our help. As natural wild habitats are declining, our backyards can become a refuge for these species. For example, some species of hummingbirds travel thousands of miles every year in an amazing migratory feat.
Find out how you can attract various species to your home and how to make your backyard a certified wildlife habitat, by visiting The National Wildlife Federation. Always be careful when attracting species to your home, as you do not want to also invite unintended guests that may cause harm to property or cause illness.