Winter can leave Coloradans feeling somber. The sound of songbirds fades away, the green turns to gray, and wildlife viewing is sparse. As soon as spring approaches, baby animals start to appear in tree nests and burrows, the sound of birds finds its way back through our windows, greenery emerges and chattering squirrels frolic. For Greenwood Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, this is one of the busiest times of the year.
A litter of baby squirrels (pups), tiny and eyes closed, fidget in the leaves of their mother’s nest. Baby raccoon siblings (cubs) look like fuzzy-headed rascals as they snuggle in the hollowed tree of their mother’s den. Both species are starting to be born around this time of year. That means more people are bound to see them.
Spring tree trimmings are a common cause for displaced babies. For this reason, we always recommend folks save their tree trimming for winter. Another common issue during spring is when wild mothers den in attics, chimneys, or under patios. If the babies have already been born, it is best to wait for them to grow old enough to leave. With the help of a little humane hazing and patchwork, you can ensure these wild animals do not return. For specific instructions on humane solutions to wildlife conflicts, call Greenwood at (303)823-8455.
Pups begin to open their eyes after about seven weeks. Cubs stay with their mother for about 16 weeks until they can roam outside mama’s den. Animal parents rear their young in ways that seem unfamiliar to us humans. They leave them during the day to forage and let them dangle from high branches. But take it from us, the best thing we can do for young wildlife is to leave them in their mother’s care.
Coloradoans are excited when new babies start to emerge, and some can be overzealous when trying to help them. It can be concerning to see a lone baby animal without a parent. Remember, babies want to be with their mothers. Going a few hours without mom is just part of being born in the wild.
Still, it is our job to ensure that we explore every opportunity of reuniting pups with their mother before interfering. If you think you’ve found an orphaned animal, check out Greenwood Wildlife’s orphaned animal checklist. The list is specific to five different animals with extensive and different details on what to do.
Just this year, we have helped facilitate several successful reunites. That means a caring person in the community followed instructions that allowed the natural mother to more easily find her babies. They kept the young ones warm and protected them from predators until she was able to retrieve them. This is the ideal situation for displaced babies.
However, if there seems to be something wrong with the baby, such as bleeding, shivering, listlessness, or contact with a pet, call Greenwood to find the nearest wildlife rehabilitator to you. When it comes to wild animals, never touch them unless a rehabilitator instructs you to do so with the appropriate protective equipment.
If an orphaned animal does end up at Greenwood’s rehabilitation center, our staff does everything they can to teach the baby how to get along in the wild before being released. Our mission requires that every animal that comes into our care is primed to return to the wild where they will be happy, healthy, and free.
Raccoon babies stay in our care for several months. They receive vaccinations, several feedings a day, and what we call “enrichment.” Enrichment helps baby cubs channel their instincts so that they can forage, hunt, and find appropriate dens on their own. By the time they are at the age when they usually leave their mother, Greenwood releases the animal or litter back into the wild.
You can be a part of our effort to keep our local fauna safe and wild by looking out for wildlife in distress and calling a wildlife rehabilitator before intervening. It is best to unobtrusively observe the animal from a distance for at least three hours. Often the mother will not return until night, or if you are too close by. Do not let your children or pets handle the animal. This is especially true for those animals that are prone to rabies. Do not attempt to feed it, and especially do not give it milk or formulas. It is illegal to care for wild animals in Colorado without a license.
Greenwood Wildlife Rehabilitation Center is here as a resource 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. daily. Call (303)823-8455 or visit our website.