Each spring there are baby animals in nests and burrows all around us. Your children may find a fledgling bird or a baby rabbit and bring it home. If your child brings home some poor creature that has fallen from the nest or wandered away from its mother, the animal should be immediately returned to the same location from which it was taken.
More often than not, the mother is nearby. If you find a featherless baby bird that appears to have fallen from the nest, find the nest, and put the baby back. It is a myth that birds will abandon their babies because of human smell. Most birds have a very poor sense of smell. The parents will continue to care for the baby.
If you see that the nest has fallen on the ground with the babies, pick it up, place it and the babies in a small berry basket and nail the basket to a tree branch. You can also use a plastic bowl. If the nest came apart when it fell and the nesting material is scattered, gather up as much as you can, then line the berry basket or bowl with tissues before you put everything you picked up, and the babies, into the basket.
Birds very rarely abandon their babies. Even when you don't see the parents, if you hear the babies making sounds in the nest, then they are being cared for. Baby birds need to eat every 20 minutes. They would die very quickly without their parents to feed them. If you can still hear the babies making sounds hours after you return them to the nest, you will know that the parents are doing their job.
Sometimes young birds fly out of the nest before they are able to fly back again. A young bird that is completely covered with feathers does not need help and should never be picked up. These "fledgling" birds will hop into undergrowth for cover, where their parents will continue to feed and protect them until they are strong enough to fly, usually within a day or two.
Never allow your child to take eggs out of a nest. Put any they may bring home back in the nest they came from right away.
Baby mammals will also sometimes leave the nest or burrow, before they have learned to take care of themselves. They may have wandered away, while the mother was off foraging for food. She will find her baby when she returns. If the baby is in an unsafe location, like the middle of the road or in a parking lot, pick it up (use gloves) and place it in nearby vegetation.
Never handle a wild animal without gloves. Cute as they may be, even adorable babies may bite, especially if injured. Also, some animals carry parasites or diseases that can be transmitted to humans.
Turtles do sometimes need our help. If you see a turtle crossing a busy road where a car could hit it, use gloves and put it on the side of the road that it was heading. Turtles know where they are going. If you put a turtle back where it came from, it will just try to cross the road again. Don't put the turtle in water. Box turtles belong on dry land and can drown in only a few inches of water.
Children will often capture a frog for the fun of it. It is our job to teach our children that no animal should ever be caught and removed from its habitat. A captured animal teaches your child nothing but cruelty.
If you find a baby animal that appears obviously injured, using gloves, gently place the baby in a cardboard box, lined with a towel. Call a forest ranger or rehabber as soon as possible.
When to help mammals:
The mother has been removed, relocated or is dead.
The mother is injured.
The nest, burrow or den has been destroyed and the mother has not returned to move her young. (Give her a full 24 hours if possible. Mothers can carry only one baby at a time. Give her time to remove all her young before believing that she is not returning for those babies that still remain.)
The baby is in a dangerous place, (lying in water, in the road, wandering a parking lot, etc.)
We must teach our children that meddling in the natural process of life and death, however well meaning, should be avoided whenever possible.