The Kenwood Press
: 03/15/2014

Found a baby – What to do??

Sharon Ponsford

A baby squirrel gets a meal from a wildlife rehabilitator..
Spring is (almost) here and the phones are starting to ring on the wildlife rescue “hotline” from people who have found baby birds and mammals and want to know what to do. Fortunately, we have many resources in Sonoma County and beyond.

There are many well-meaning people who want to help wildlife, but often do the wrong thing, so stop and think before rushing into a situation that might just be perfectly normal. While we have many well-trained people in the area who can work with wildlife, there is no one who can do as good a job as that baby’s very own parent! Also, a reminder, it is against the law in this state for anyone to keep and care for wildlife unless they are a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. In situations where untrained people try to raise these orphans, it usually winds up poorly for the animal. So, don’t even go there. Use the list below to get that baby into good hands as soon as possible.

Every year at Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue we get babies that have been unintentionally kidnapped from their parents by people who think they need help. We spend a lot of time and effort trying to re-unite these families, and it isn’t always successful. Please, except in an emergency situation, try and educate yourself a little bit before getting involved. There is nothing sadder than having a litter of healthy, thriving babies crying for their moms, who have been taken from their parents by people who didn’t know better. I have been in this situation more than once and it causes me to cry right along with them.

Unless an animal obviously needs help (bleeding, broken limb, lying in or by the side of a road, or there is a dead parent nearby) it’s best to observe and assess the situation. When humans have new babies, especially twins, triplets, etc., think of how much help they get from friends, neighbors and family. Wildlife parents don’t have that kind of support. Except in rare cases in mammals, and several bird species, they don’t even have their mate to help them. These nursing moms need plenty of food, and may leave their babies for long periods of time while they are out foraging. The parents are often close by and keeping tabs on the little ones. Now is the time to call the experts and get advice on whether or not to intervene. In most cases you can find excellent advice on their websites, so you may not even have to call.

The following is a list of wildlife rescue organizations in Sonoma County:

• Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue. On their excellent website, go to “Found an Animal” and you will get all kinds of help. Their Hotline number is 526-9453. Business office: 992-0274.

• Wildlife Fawn Rescue. Scroll down to the bottom of their home page and you will see a section called “What You Can Do.” It covers just about everything you need to know if you find a fawn. Fawns are often left alone for long periods of time by their moms. 931-4550.

• Native Songbird Care & Conservation. Click on “I Found a Bird” for very good information. 484-6502.

• The Bird Rescue Center. On the far right, at the very top of the page, click on “Rescue Info.” 523-2743.

All of the above websites provide excellent information. Please take the time to look at them and determine if a baby actually needs rescuing, and, if it does, how to proceed. One thing that they all have in common is the following advice: that the orphan needs to go to a licensed wildlife rehabilitator ASAP. Don’t feed it, and don’t give it water. Also, all would agree that it is a myth that the parent(s) of a baby mammal or bird won’t take the baby back if it has been handled by humans.

All wildlife rehabilitators work together for the good of the animal. Don’t worry about calling the wrong number. Whoever answers should be able to get you to the right place if they can’t help you. All of these places are very busy this time of year, so be patient if you have to leave a message. They will get back to you.

Sharon Ponsford has lived in Glen Ellen since 1988. She volunteers with the Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue. If you have questions or would like to ask her about our local wildlife, please email her at