Expert post: What to do with an abandoned animal
Around now, you or your children might find baby animals such as birds or foxes in your garden. What should you do if you find one which seems to have been abandoned?
Two springs ago, when we were newly-arrived in France and totally unaccustomed to country life, I found what I thought was an abandoned baby bird on the ground. It had feathers, but couldn't fly, and was hopping about, tweeting plaintively. This happened on the same day that the internet was down, so not knowing what to do, I rang a friend. He told me to take it inside and feed it some bread soaked in milk.
I did this, and kept it in overnight, near a lightbulb for some warmth. By the morning, my bird was still tweeting, the internet was back on, I looked up what I should do and found out that my well-meaning actions could well have killed this "abandoned" baby bird. I put him back outside and almost immediately his mother swooped down to feed him a morsel.
The RSPCA says that March till June is always a busy period for them - last year their number of admissions rose from 610 in March to 3,084 in June - largely due to an influx of baby animals, particuarly fledglings, brought in by well-meaning members of the public like me.
As it turns out, most of these animals that people like me believe to be abandoned actually aren't - their parent is probably close by and watching at a distance. For example, baby hares are born above ground and then deliberately left by their mothers - she will return to feed them once a day at dusk. It's also quite normal for fox cubs and some baby birds to venture out alone.
To rescue or not to resuce?
RSPCA wildlife scientist Sophie Adwick said: "Our advice is that if you see a lone baby animal, unless it is obviously injured, monitor the situation from afar. The likelihood is that it does not need rescuing. Young animals have a much greater chance of survival if they remain with their parents."
The RSPCA site offers specific advice on what to do if you find various baby animals but the basic advice is generally not to invervene until you are sure they have been abandoned. If the parent hasn't returned after 24 hours, contact an expert such as the RSPCA or specialist animal organisation such as the Bat Conservation Trust or the British Hedgehog Preservation Society. If you are unsure what to do, you can also call the RSPCA for advice on 0300 1234 999.
Advice about what to do if you find an injured animal is slightly different. If it it safe to catch and box the animal, you should make sure you used gloves and keep the animal away from your face. Put it in a well-ventilated cardboard box lined with a towel or newspaper and take it to an RSPCA wildlife centre or a wildlife rehabilitor. If you are unsure about whether you can move the animal without injuring it or yourself, keep pets away from it and call in an expert.
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