Wildlife rehabilitators give advice on how to handle orphaned/injured animals

Wildlife rehabilitator, Lori Dawson, says that when an abandoned animal is found, it is best to leave it alone, or return it to its’ nest, if it can be located.
Published: Apr. 25, 2023 at 5:38 PM CDT
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BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) - Across the globe, spring brings newborn wildlife to forests, farms, and cities. Unfortunately, this often results in injured or orphaned animals being taken in by well-intentioned people, often with detrimental consequences.

Bringing a wild animal into a home, whether a newborn or not, can be dangerous for both the person and the animal. Wildlife rehabilitator, Lori Dawson, says that when an abandoned animal is found, it is best to leave it alone or return it to its nest if it can be located.

Dawson has been rehabilitating wildlife for seven years and is the founder of Wild4LifeKY, a Bowling Green-based nonprofit formed to rescue and rehabilitate Kentucky wildlife.

“I actually got my start because we had a dog, and it got a squirrel. And I couldn’t find anybody to take it, so I just decided, well I’ll just do it myself and see how it goes, so I rehabbed it and let it go,” said Dawson.

After three years of rehabilitating squirrels from her home, Dawson says that her official wildlife rescue journey began once she was certified through Kentucky Fish and Wildlife. Since then, she says that she has seen it all.

“I’ve had everybody from baby mice to bald eagles,” Dawson said.

She says that for abandoned, or suspected orphaned wildlife, the best-case scenario for both the person and the animal, is to leave it alone.

“I always like to tell the story, if you find a kid that’s lost in the mall, your first thought isn’t to take them home, call social workers and get them into foster care,” said Dawson. “You don’t just immediately want to take them and assume the mom isn’t taking care of them. You wanna try to find the nest, put them back, because the mother does a much better job with them than we do.”

In the case of visibly injured wildlife, temporary housing may be necessary, but it’s best to leave any long-term care to professionals as well.

“I always say, if there’s a lot of bugs on them, a lot of blood on them, then that’s probably a case where you do wanna take the animal. If it’s an adult, I always say call us first, don’t try to take the animal on your own,” she said.

When temporarily housing an injured animal, it’s important to keep the animal in a quiet, dark space until a professional can arrive.

Dawson said, “The stress of being handled is really a big deal with animals, so if you really want to save the animal’s life, put it in a box. Close it, don’t feed it, keep it warm until we can get to you.”

Kentucky Fish and Wildlife has compiled a list of wildlife rehabilitators across the Commonwealth and encourages anybody to use the list as needed.