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Wildlife Q&A



By Jenny Anderson

This is the season when we see a surge in baby animals.   Most people mistakenly think it is helpful to move these little critters to a “safer” location, and in the process, end up disturbing the balance of nature.  Although it’s hard to believe, these small creatures often are born nearly ready to forage on their own.

A young desert tortoise functions independent of its parents from the time it emerges from the shell.  Baby bunnies can survive on their own as soon as their eyes are open, and tiny quail may appear to be separated from their parents, yet easily can rejoin them once you’re safely out of their way.

So when a wild baby rabbit or bird shows up in your yard, what should you do?  Although it may appear to be abandoned, in most cases, it’s best to leave it alone.  The best course of action may be to let nature take its course.  If the animal is obviously injured, in distress, or threatened by a pet dog/cat, you may need to take steps that protect it.  Otherwise leave it alone.  Even though the parent may not be visible, it probably will be nearby.

Rabbit and quail nests are often found in shallow depressions under brush.  Since the nests are at ground level, a dog or cat can easily prey on the young.  Responsible pet parents need to keep a tight lead when walking the dog in spring and never let them run loose.

Any young animal’s best chance for survival is to be raised by its natural mother.  Wild animals, however cute they may be, cannot be kept as pets.  Indeed, it is illegal to keep most wild birds and mammals without the proper permits from the federal and state agencies that protect them.  Arizona Game & Fish is the appropriate agency in reporting and handling incidents concerning wildlife but often our local humane society acts as an intermediary contact.

Wildlife rehabilitation takes special skill, and we have just one couple licensed to care for wildlife in our region.  Even with the knowledge and skill they have acquired, the end result is not always a happy one.  The Western Arizona Humane Society staff contacts them when wild baby critters show up in their front office.

One of the prevailing myths is that once handled by a human, a wild baby or the nest will be abandoned.  Most wild creatures will still care for their young after human contact, since they rarely detect the human scent.   It is better to return the baby to its nest, if you are able to locate it.  Fledgling birds will normally jump out of the nest in their attempts to fly, and frequently will be found hopping around along the ground.  If the area is otherwise safe, make sure that Fido or Tiger are not outdoors to hunt the fledglings.

Warming weather brings about more active wildlife.  Coyotes, snakes, and other larger wild animals are reproducing in spring and early summer.  Swarms of bees are busy gathering food from flowering plants. As a result, pet caregivers must take precautions and be even more aware of their surroundings when outdoors.

In summary:

  • All wildlife is best left in its natural habitat.
  • Never try to feed or force water down the throat of a wild animal.  This may cause unintentional damage or even kill it.  Each species requires a very specific diet.
  • When a baby animal can run on its own, it probably doesn’t need your help.
  • It is not a good idea to repeatedly handle wildlife.   This is very stressful and can further compromise the animal’s well being. Once it is in a secure place, leave it alone.
  • When you find a hurt or sick animal (bleeding, shivering, broken bones), carefully place it in a secure cardboard box and bring it to WAHS.  The shelter will immediately call the wildlife rehabilitation contact.


Because we humans have encroached into areas where wildlife thrives, we are probably going to have periodic encounters with wild baby animals.  It is critical that we let wild creatures remain wild and independent.  This means that human foods should not be shared with our wildlife friends.  When we leave food out, we may inadvertently attract unwanted predators and scavengers.

The Western Arizona Humane Society is open Monday-Saturday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m., with kennel hours 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Call 855-5083 for details. To find lost pets, call 855-4111. View animals found at

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