Editorial: Take care if helping wild animals

Many animals are setting up territories, building nests, or finding den sites to give birth and raise their young, according to the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP).

At the same time, with the arrival of warm weather, we are spending more time outdoors and the chances are greater we may come across a young bird or mammal that appears to be orphaned or injured.

But before jumping into rescue mode, the DEEP suggests a little patience and being careful.

It is normal for many animals to leave their young alone for long periods of time, so your help may not be needed. In all likelihood, the adult is nearby watching and waiting to return.

Spotting a fawn

This is especially true with deer, as the only time a female will be found with a fawn is during feeding times.

“If you come across a fawn, it is best to leave it alone for at least 48 hours to determine whether the adult is returning for feedings,” said Rick Jacobson, DEEP Wildlife Division director. “While waiting for the doe to return, it is important that both people and dogs stay away from the fawn.

“A truly orphaned fawn may show signs of distress by walking around aimlessly and calling out for several hours,” Jacobson said.

Many people find young birds hopping around the yard in June and July. Most of these birds are old enough to leave the nest, but are still not efficient fliers.

If you find a fully feathered, young bird that is unable to fly, it is best to leave it where it was found, the DEEP says. The adults are probably still caring for the young bird, which should be capable of flying within a few days.

Remember to keep pets away from the bird and watch it closely for at least an hour to see if the adults are returning to feed it.

If you find a young bird on the ground that appears to not have feathers, look for a nest. If a nest is in a nearby tree or shrub and the bird feels warm to the touch, try to place the nestling back into the nest.

If the nest has fallen on the ground, make a new nest with a wicker basket and some dry grasses and hang the basket with the nestling in it in a nearby tree or shrub.

Sense of smell

Most birds have a poorly developed sense of smell and will not be scared away if you touched the young bird. Be sure to watch the nest carefully for at least an hour to see if the adults return to find and feed their nestling.

If you find an animal that is definitely injured or orphaned, remember to:

• Avoid direct contact;

• Keep pets and children away;

• Use heavy gloves to transfer the animal to a cardboard box or escape-proof container;

• Keep the animal in a warm, quiet place;

• Contact an authorized wildlife rehabilitator.

In Connecticut, there are about 250 authorized volunteer wildlife rehabilitators with the skills and training to care for sick, injured, and orphaned wildlife. To obtain the names of wildlife rehabilitators near Shelton, go to ct.gov/deep/wildlife or call the DEEP Wildlife Division at 860-424-3011 (after hours or weekends, 860-424-3333).