Wildlife Encounters - 9th - 12th grade
Lesson 2: Wildlife Populations
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Each year, hundreds of thousands of wildlife babies are taken from the wild by well-meaning humans that believe the animals have been abandon by their parents. It is human nature to want to rescue an animal that looks like it needs help, though wild babies rarely need human assistance.

A wildlife baby that is not with its parent is not necessarily orphaned. Remember that precocial species like turtles do not need parental care to survive, raccoon feedingand that deer and rabbits use the abandon strategy to help protect their offspring. Also, parent animals will often hide when humans are around. It is best to assume a baby wild animal is NOT orphaned unless there is evidence that its parents have been killed.

How do you know if an animal is really orphaned? Follow the checklist below!

  • Is the baby crying? Healthy baby animals that are waiting for mom to come back are quiet so predators do not find them. If a baby is crying or making lots of noise, it might be orphaned.
  • opossum orphanAre there bugs on the baby? If mom is taking care of the baby, she will keep insects away. Seeing insects on a baby is a good clue that it is orphaned.
  • Is the baby cold? If babies go too long without seeing mom or eating, they get cold. Cold babies are most likely orphaned babies.
  • Is the baby dehydrated? In young animals with little fur or feathers, dehydration causes the skin to look wrinkled. Wrinkled skin is a sign babies have not been fed, and are likely orphaned.
  • Is the baby injured? Does it look like the baby is hurt or bleeding? Injured babies need human help even if mom is around, and should be rescued.
  • Still not sure if a baby animal needs to be rescued?
    orphan baby animalCall your local wildlife rehabilitator or veterinarian to ask! It is always best to check with a professional before intervening to help wildlife. A list of the Illinois Wildlife Rehabilitators can be found at the Illinois Department of Natural Resources website.



Challenges for Wildlife Orphans