The first thing to do when you think you have found an orphaned baby mammal is to be patient! Keep an eye on it at a safe and unthreatening distance for a few hours for the mother to return. Many animals will leave their young periodically for their own protection or to feed.
Call the WRSOS helpline if you have found a baby animal that has little to no fur and has been alone for an hour. The baby may need to be placed it inside a shallow box close to where it was found with a warm water bottle in order for it to survive. If the mother returns, she will see her baby and be able to retrieve it. If the mother does not return and the baby is showing signs of hunger or distress, such as making noise constantly, call the WRSOS helpline for further direction.
A baby mammal’s best chance for survival is to be raised by its natural parents, so please make sure you make every effort to reunite parents with their babies before considering removing them from the wild.
Here is some species specific information!
Squirrels are born naked with their ears and eyes are closed. In this state they are totally dependent on their mother and stay with her for about 18 weeks. If a baby squirrel has fallen out of a tree, give the mother a chance to retrieve her baby. If the squirrel is still naked, it may need a heat source such as a warm water bottle until its mother has returned. If you think you have found an orphaned squirrel, watch it for a few hours to see if the mother returns, if she has not the baby squirrel may need care and you should call the WRSOS helpline for further advice.
Fox kits are often left unsupervised by their mothers for long periods of time. If they are acting like puppies and playing around, they are just fine. If you find some fox kits and are concerned about them, watch them for a couple of days to make sure their mother returns. If they appear to be sickly or weak, and their mother has not been seen in days, then they may need help and you can call the WRSOS helpline. Do not attempt to rescue any type of canine yourself for your own safety.
Raccoons are a tight family unit. If you have observed a baby raccoon on its own for 3 or more hours, it is possible that it is an orphan. Mother raccoons normally don’t let their babies out of their sight. If you think that you have found an orphaned raccoon call the helpline for further advice.
Skunk families are another unit that generally stick together. Skunks actually have very poor eyesight so if the mother skunk runs off the babies may lose sight of her and become separated. If you see a baby skunk, or a group of them, on their own there is a chance that they have been orphaned. It is best to monitor the situation for a few hours to see if the mother comes back. If you have found baby skunks on their own, call the helpline to seek advice on what you should do next.