Inappropriate rescue of a wild animal can do more harm than good, so we try to make sure only the animals that truly need help are brought to our centre. Check out the following page as a general guideline to when a rescue is needed, and give us a call if the animal needs help or if you have questions. If a rescue turns out to be necessary, visit our Wildlife Rescue and Transport page for more information. Mammals caught by cats or dogs often have serious internal injuries which may not be apparent to untrained observers. Cats also carry bacteria deadly to small animals in their mouths, so even a small puncture wound can cause an infection that later kills the animal. Because of this, we recommend that all wildlife caught by cats be brought to a wildlife rehabilitation centre for treatment, even if they don’t look hurt.
Did you know that free-roaming cats kill over one billion small mammals in North America every year? Click here for more information on cats and their effect on wildlife.
A mammal which is injured will often act weak or sleepy and may be easy to approach. If the animal is injured you may see bleeding, limping or entanglement in a foreign object such as fishing line or garbage. These animals will need help if they are to survive, but be very mindful of your own safety. Most mammals have strong jaws and sharp teeth which they may use to defend themselves, so it’s best to avoid handling them directly. Call us for advice before attempting a rescue and see the Wildlife Rescue and Transport page for more information.
There are three main categories of baby wild animals you might encounter in Nova Scotia: baby hare and deer, infant mammals and juvenile mammals.
A baby snowshoe hare (rabbit) or deer would normally be found lying alone in a sheltered area. Mothers of these species leave their young alone while they search for food and only visit briefly to let them nurse a few times a day. If you find one of these babies, leave it alone unless the baby is crying, is injured, has not moved to a new location within 48 hours or is in an exposed area such as the middle of a road, in which case it should be brought to a wildlife rehabilitator. It is extremely important to not touch these babies if there’s no reason to, as human scent can make the mother reluctant to care for it.
Infant mammals have thin or no fur, small legs/feet and closed eyes and should be inside a nest or den. An infant found outside a den may have been temporarily left by its mother while she transferred the litter to another den site, or it may be an orphan emerging from the safety of the den out of desperation. The only way to tell is to give the mother a chance to retrieve the baby. Place the infant in a shallow container with a heat source as described on the Wildlife Rescue and Transport page. Leave the baby close to where you found it and monitor from a distance for several hours. Nocturnal animals such as raccoons and skunks should be left out after dark. If no mother appears to take it, the baby is likely orphaned. Check the surrounding area for the den and other orphans, and contact a wildlife rehabilitator. If a nest or den has been disturbed, monitor from a distance for a few hours. The mother should move her young to a new nest site, but if she is nowhere to be found they will have to go to a wildlife rehabilitator.
Juvenile mammals are fully furred, have open eyes and are at/near adult size. As juveniles become mobile they explore the area around their den and begin to forage. The mother is usually present but may not be immediately visible. As long as they appear healthy, active and keep their distance from humans, mammals at this stage should be left alone. Even if they seem all alone, the mother is likely nearby. If they become weak, are calling frequently or approach humans they are likely orphaned and will need to enter rehabilitation.