Lake Metroparks says it’s best to just leave nature alone when encountering orphaned babies and other wildlife

Photography: Jen Beck

By Mimi Vanderhaven

June is the month for exploring the great outdoors, whether hiking, biking or gardening. But as we take to the trails, paths and backyards again, it’s good to realize that we’re not alone. If you encounter a wild animal that looks like it’s orphaned or injured, what should you do?

We caught up with Tammy O’Neil, wildlife care manager, and Marilyn Levand, wildlife education manager for Lake Metroparks, to find out.

They caution that nine times out of 10, you should not intervene if you see an animal that looks scared or helpless.

“Backyard wildlife needs very little from us, as long as we remember to give them the peace and quiet they need to successfully raise their young,” says Tammy. “The most important thing to remember is that wild parents know what’s best for their young. We do not need to get involved. Young animals do not have a scent. If the parents have hidden them in the grass or elsewhere, predators will not be attracted to them.”

They say if you find an uninjured baby animal, leave it where you found it until you are sure the parents are not returning.

“An animal needs assistance only if it is injured, has a broken bone or is bleeding, cannot walk or fly, is disoriented due to an impact from a vehicle or is covered in a foreign substance, maggots or flies,” says Marilyn.

If you find an orphaned or injured animal, contact your local wildlife officer for your best options of care. There are safety concerns such as parasites and disease to consider.

The ladies offer some suggestions for a wildlife-friendly backyard:

• Check for nests before cutting down a tree or clearing brush.

• Place caps on chimneys, vents and window wells to prevent wildlife from entering or nesting there.

• Demonstrate respect for wildlife and their homes. Teach children not to catch or harass wildlife.

Due to Covid-19 public health protocols, the Kevin P. Clinton Wildlife Center and Yard are currently closed to the public. Animals cannot be accepted for care at this time, so please do not attempt to drop off wildlife. Visit more information on what to do if you encounter injured or orphaned wildlife and for links to other approved wildlife rehabilitators.