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Spring is baby animal season, let 'em be

Wildwoods' first orphan mamma of the season, a black eastern grey squirrel. (Photo: Wildwoods)

Spring is the beginning of the busiest part of Wildwoods' year: orphan season. Baby cottontails are already huddled in their nests with their nervous mothers visiting only twice a day, around dawn and dusk, to offer them two large feedings of very rich milk. Young bunnies mature quickly and will be out on their own in just a few weeks.

Squirrels have already had the first of their two spring and summer litters. Young squirrels mature more slowly than bunnies and won't be out on their own until midsummer.

Near the end of May, whitetail deer will be birthing their fawns. For the first several weeks the fawns will lie curled up and still. They are too slow to keep up with mom, so they will rely on their lack of movement, relative lack of scent and the camouflage of their spotted coats to avoid detection.

And birds! Some, like eagles and great horned owls, already have chicks that are quite large. Others, like robins and other migrating songbirds, are building nests or already incubating eggs. Baby birds will spent a few weeks in their nests, then leave them to spend a few days on the ground or in the bushes as they work on their flying skills and learn survival from their parents.

What should you do if you find a young wild animal? It varies by situation. If the baby is obviously sick or injured, bring it to a wildlife rehabilitator or organization. Please don't offer it any food or water, as this can harm the baby a lot.

Most of the time the baby is fine and the parents are nearby. They are watching you and waiting until you leave so they can continue to care for their baby. If you're not sure whether the baby is truly orphaned, call before you touch or move it. All wildlife rehabilitators are happy to talk with you. These calls keep healthy babies from being unknowingly separated from their parents.

At Wildwoods, we get many calls about baby animals people find. Only about 1 in 10 is truly in trouble and needs to come to us. We are happy to talk through any situation with you so that we may find the best solution for the wild baby together. Our website also has a wealth of information on what to do if you find a baby animal or any animal you fear may be in trouble.

Over the next several weeks we will explore different types of baby animals and the various scenarios you may encounter with them and what to do and not to do. We'll cover bunnies, squirrels, fawns, raccoons and baby birds.

We all enjoy watching nature's renewal unfold before us. With the knowledge of what to do if you encounter a wild baby in trouble, you'll be ready to offer help if it is needed. This preparedness will allow you to relax and enjoy the antics of our wild neighbors even more.

Wildwoods is a 501(c)(3) wildlife rehabilitation organization in Duluth. For information visit wildwoodsrehab.org, call (218) 491-3604 or write to P.O. Box 3161, Duluth, MN 55803.

Please support our hardworking little nonprofit and come to our silent auction fundraiser at Clyde Iron Works 3-7 p.m. on Sunday, May 1. Tickets are $30, available on the website. There will be great music, food and drink and many wonderful items to bid on. See you there!

Peggy Farr

Peggy Farr is a volunteer and board member of Wildwoods and works in human health care.

Wildwoods is a 501(c)(3) wildlife rehabilitation organization in Duluth. For information on how you can help wildlife, including volunteer opportunities, visit wildwoodsrehab.org, call (218) 491-3604 or write to P.O. Box 3161, Duluth, MN 55803.

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