Injured Birds & Baby Wildlife

The National Wildlife Federation ( provides a lot of good information and resources about what to do if you find injured birds or baby wildlife, some of which is provided below.  In all cases, you can call Animal Control at 201-229-4616 for more information on what to do about a wounded animal.

Determine if the Animal Really Needs Help

When we encounter a baby wild animal, often our first instinct is to try to rescue it, especially if it’s alone. Before intervening, make sure it actually needs help. In many cases, it’s totally normal for wildlife babies to be on their own. “Rescuing” an animal that doesn’t need rescuing actually decreases its chance of survival. Letting nature take its course is usually the best thing to do.

The exception is if an animal is injured as the direct result of human activity, such as getting hit by a car, attacked by a pet, striking a window, or falling from a nest during tree work, or if you’ve witnessed its parent being killed and know for sure that it has been orphaned. In those instances, the ethical thing to do is try to help. Calling a local wildlife rehabilitator should be your first step to provide help for the animal.

Finding a Wildlife Rehabilitator

The most important thing you can do when you find any wild animal in need, a baby or an adult, is to immediately call a local wildlife rescue center or licensed wildlife rehabilitator for assistance. Do not try to take care of a wild animal yourself. Caring for wildlife is a round-the-clock job and requires special training to do properly. In fact, you must have a state-issued license to legally keep and care for wild animals

In New Jersey, you can try contacting Raptor Trust ( which is located in Basking Ridge and handles all kinds of birds.   Franklin Lakes Animal Hospital ( works with injured or orphaned wild animals.

To assist in getting the animal to a rehabilitator, you can call Animal Control at 201-229-4616, who will help trap or capture the injured animal.

Species-Specific Tips

Birds–Baby birds are frequently encountered on the ground in spring. If the baby bird is featherless or covered in fluffy down, it is called a “nestling” and should be returned to the nest if possible. Listen and look for the parents. This can give you a good indication as to where their nest is located and where you can safely place the nestling.  (Don’t be alarmed if the parents raise a fuss and dive-bomb you; they are just looking after their young!) Touching a nestling will not make the parents reject it.

If the baby bird is fully feathered, it’s called a “fledgling” and it is normal for it to be out of the nest. Fledglings spend several days on the ground hiding in the vegetation until they can fully fly. While this is a dangerous time for young birds, their parents continue to feed and protect them, and your intervention is not necessary. In fact, by taking fledglings out of the wild you decrease their chances of survival. However, if you see a fledgling in the street or otherwise in harm’s way, try to move it into dense vegetation close to where you discovered it so the parents can look after it.

Baby ducks and geese are “precocial,” meaning shortly after hatching their eyes open and they able to walk, swim and feed themselves immediately, under the watchful eye of their parents who protect them from predators. They leave the nest shortly after hatching and shouldn’t be returned to it. If you encounter a lone baby, contact a wildlife rehabilitator.

Deer and Rabbits–If you see a deer fawn lying alone in your yard or baby rabbits in a nest in your lawn, they are usually not orphaned. Mother deer and rabbits leave their young alone for most of the day to avoid attracting predators. Fawns and bunnies have fur that camouflages them and they instinctually remain still and quiet. Just observe from a distance and keep domestic animals and people away, chances are quite likely the mother will be back shortly. As with fledgling birds, “rescuing” baby deer and rabbits by removing them from the wild is unnecessary and reduces their chances of survival.

Squirrels–Squirrel mothers begin giving birth as early as late winter and can have several litters over the spring and summer. They give birth in a leafy nest built in the branches or inside tree cavities. If you find a baby squirrel on the ground with its eyes closed or that can’t move, it’s too young to be away from the mother and could be injured, dehydrated or malnourished. Contact a wildlife rehabilitator immediately and do not try to feed or raise it yourself. Baby squirrels require special care and must be fed a specific formula every few hours around the clock.

Reptiles–Baby snakes, turtles and lizards hatch from their eggs (or are born in the case of some snakes) completely equipped to care for themselves. Leave them right where they are. The best way to help them is to make sure you have plenty of native plants and other sources of cover, such as a brush or rock pile, in your yard to give them places to hide from predators.

If you unearth a nest of eggs in your yard (mulch and compost piles are favorite places for reptiles to lay eggs), leave them where they are or contact a wildlife rehabilitator for help relocating them. Embryos attach to the inside of the eggshell shortly after laying and moving the eggs could result in the death of the embryo if not done properly.

Never Try to Make Wildlife into Pets

While it may be tempting to keep wild animals as pets, especially ones you’ve helped, they are meant to live wild and free. In fact, there are laws to protect many species from being taken out of the wild by people.

The full text of this blog can be found at

Contact Us

Thomas Longo

Interim Director

Robert Bergamini

Animal Shelter Manager

Bergen County Animal Shelter and Adoption Center

100 United Lane • Teterboro, NJ 07608

Animal Shelter & Adoption Center: 201-229-4600

Animal Control Phone: 201-229-4616


For Directions to the Shelter, please click here