Place the animal in a secure cardboard box with small holes placed in the side or lid. The box should be just big enough for the animal to stand and turn around, to prevent the animal from thrashing around and hurting itself. Place paper towels or a soft cloth on the bottom of the box.
Keep the box in a warm, quiet, dark place, away from family pets and children. Many times wild animals are in shock or at the very least scared.
If the animal is injured, cold, or featherless/hairless, put a heating pad on LOW under half of the box.
Try to get an animal help as soon as possible. Some birds need to eat every 1/2 hour. If you cannot get an animal help in 2 hours, call a rehabilitator.
DON'T keep peeking at or handling the animal. The more you look at or handle it, the more you stress the animal and reduce its chance of survival.
DON'T give any animal anything to eat or drink, especially cows milk. Baby birds can't digest milk or milk products. Many baby mammals are lactose intolerant and may develop fatal diarrhea.
DON'T handle raccoons, skunks, fox, or bats without protection. If you get bitten or scratched (possibly exposed to rabies), you may need to get expensive rabies shots. In addition, the animal will be euthanized to be tested for rabies.
To prevent unnecessary 'rescues' (kidnappings) and to keep both wildlife and the community safe, here are some helpful tips and information on what to do if you see wildlife you think needs your help!
Raccoons, Skunks, and Foxes
These babies often play in the woods under their mothers care. Before disturbing them, observe from a distance to see if the mother is indeed watching over them. It's best to leave them alone unless there is an obvious problem. If the mother has been killed, the babies may wander out of the den because they are hungry. They may be crying, look weak or sickly. In this case, the babies need attention. Don’t feed the baby! Don't pick these animals up with your bare hands! If you get bit, it is required by law that the animal will have to be destroyed in order to test it for rabies!!! Adults can be very dangerous and should only be handled by professionals. It is recommended to call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) or animal control for assistance.
If an immature juvenile squirrel approaches or follows you, its mother has most likely been killed and it's looking for its mother. These squirrels are generally starving and malnourished and need attention. If a baby (eyes closed) is found on the ground, it may have fallen from a nest (especially if there has been a recent storm). Check the baby for injuries. If injured, take it to your local wildlife rehabilitation center immediately. If there are NO apparent injuries, place the baby in a small plastic bowl with several holes punched in the bottom. Line the bowl with leaves or grass and place it about 5 feet off the ground in the lower branches of the tree closest to where the squirrel was found. Don't feed the baby. Monitor the bowl during the daylight hours. If the mother doesn't retrieve the baby in a few hours, take the baby to your nearest wildlife rehabilitation center.
These animals are on their own when they are about 8-10 inches long (not including the tail.) If one is found smaller than that, it needs attention. The mother opossum carries her babies in or on her body and if startled or attacked, one or more babies may be left behind when the mother flees. The mother opossum will never realize that she is missing a baby and will not return for it. Check for others, as an average opossum litter is 13! Keep the babies warm with a heating pad set on LOW until you can get them into a rehabilitation facility. Orphans are often found looking for food near a dead mother, especially along roadsides. If you see a dead opossum by the side of a road, check it for babies. Baby opossums can survive on a dead mother's body for about 48 hours. You can detach the babies or you can just put the body in a box and bring it and the babies to a wildlife rehabilitator.
A young rabbit is on its own if the fur is fluffy, the ears are standing, and it is the size of a tennis ball. If not injured, put it back where you found it. If it was brought in by a dog or a cat, it is probably injured and needs attention. If the rabbits’ nest is disturbed, replace the fur inside the nest and cover the nest well with dry grass. The mother should return to care for her young. The mother will not reject the babies if you handle them. If at all possible, it is best to let the mother rabbit raise her babies. Rabbits are hard to raise! If you can get near an adult rabbit, something is certainly wrong. Carefully and QUIETLY place it in a box and transport to a wildlife rehabilitator immediately.
Bat pups are usually found in May through early August. Many times bat pups will fall out of trees or housing during a storm. Babies that are furred look very much like the adults except they are smaller, and do not fly well. These babies need assistance. Don't pick these animals up with your bare hands because of the concern of rabies. Adult bats can’t take off from the ground but must be hung from a tree or building. A grounded bat can often be made to crawl onto a towel which can be draped from a fence or tree limb so the animal can fly off. Adult bats found inside the house and are uninjured, can be released directly outside.
Bobcats and Bears
These animals can be very dangerous and should only be handled by professionals. It is recommended to call the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (1-888-404-3922) (FWC) for assistance. Even babies can be dangerous. If the babies are newborn or they don't have their eyes open, they can be taken directly to a rehabilitator if it is certain the mother is not returning. Otherwise, it is best to call the FWC. They are much better equipped to handle these animals and take them to the proper facility.
Fawns are often found lying quietly in a field without its mother. This is NORMAL. If you find one and it is not crying, leave it there and check back in 12-24 hours. If one follows you, take it back to where it first saw you and leave as quickly as you can. Check the fawn again in 12-24 hours. If it is injured or crying, then it needs special attention. If small enough, transport to your nearest wildlife facility. If too large or it is an injured adult, call FWC.
Feathered birds or fledglings
Baby birds are often seen fully feathered but trying to fly with the parents nearby. These are fledglings. If they are active and alert, it is best to leave them alone. If possible, keep cats and dogs away from the area for a few days in which time the birds will learn to fly. The parents will continue to care for them even though they are on the ground. If you are not sure the parents are nearby, you may put the bird in a nearby bush or on a tree branch and observe from inside the house for a few hours. If the mother sees you in the yard she will not come near.
Nestling birds (partially feathered)
If the baby bird is alert and opening its mouth for food, you can put it back in the nest. If it is not gaping or is cold, it may need special attention. If a bird is injured, it needs help and cannot be placed back in the nest. Birds that are cat caught are assumed to be injured although they may not appear to be. If a bird is featherless, it needs heat. Since some baby birds need to eat every 1/2 hour, it is important to contact a rehabilitator as soon as possible for instructions if it cannot be put back in the nest or the mother is gone.
The Sanctuary is open 8am – 5 pm, 7 days a week. Call us at 850-433-9453. Please do not email if urgent. We are a hospital/nursery/sanctuary but do not do rescues or pick ups. If you found an animal in need after 5pm please use the information on this page.