Many young animals are handed in to us as 'orphans' but many actually haven’t been abandoned at all! If you’re worried about a baby animal that seems to be alone read our advice below. If you’re sure the animal has been abandoned, either call us on 0300 1234 999 or contact your nearest wildlife rehabilitator.
I’ve found a baby...
badger or otter
Watch the baby from a distance, ideally for 24 hours but at least overnight, to see if the parents come back.
People often think they have found a baby bat because they don’t realise how small adult bats can be! The Bat Conservation Trust (0845 1300228) will be able to put you in touch with your local bat carer. If you suspect you've found a baby bat then treat it very carefully - if you have to pick it up, handle it with gloves, or use a soft towel. It might be possible to return the bat to the mother, depending on where you found it.
If the bird is under a possible nest site, watch it from a distance to see if the parents are still feeding it. Cats and other predators catch young birds and drop them. If you know this has happened, the bird should be taken to a vet or a wildlife centre.
Fawns are often left alone from an early age and the mother will return to feed them. This is a survival strategy, because the mum is trying to keep potential predators (including you!) away from her young. Either watch the fawn from a distance to see if mum returns, or leave the baby in peace and check on it again after 24 hours.
Many fox cubs are unnecessarily brought into care because they are thought to be abandoned. A study of foxes in Bristol showed that 95% of such cubs would survive if returned to where they were found. Watch the cubs from a distance for at least 24 hrs to see if their parents are still feeding them. Only intervene immediately if the cubs are in direct danger. Should you disturb a fox litter, causing the mother to run away, try and leave the cubs where they are and monitor from a distance. Mum should return for them and move them to a more secure location when she feels it's safe. For more information see The Fox Website and our FAQ.
Leverets (baby hares) are left alone as soon as they're born, which is another type of survival strategy, so that the mother hare doesn’t put all her eggs in one basket! She'll return to feed her babies once a day at dusk, so don’t disturb them. If you’re worried, watch them from a distance to see if the mum comes back.
Hoglets are often found in the autumn, when they’re eating lots and trying to put on weight before hibernating. Young hedgehogs need to weigh about 500g to survive hibernation, so you might be able to help by just giving them some food. See our
Caring for autumn juvenile hedgehogs (PDF 130KB) sheet or our FAQ for advice.
If the young hedgehog is smaller than 500g and the weather is turning cold, it may be better in care. The British Hedgehog Preservation Society has a list of hedgehog carers on their website, or contact us.
As with hares, it's not unusual for a mother rabbit to be away from her babies. She will close her kittens into a burrow, returning to nurse about once a day, usually at night. Kittens found above ground are either old enough to explore (usually at 18 to 25 days) and should be left alone, or something has dug them out of the burrow. If this is the case, the babies will be too young to survive. It's not easy to tell the difference between the two scenarios unless there is evidence of a disturbed nest.
If you're worried that the kittens have been abandoned and they are not in immediate danger, watch from a distance to see whether the mum comes back. This may mean watching them overnight. It's important not to disturb a rabbit's nest as this makes the mother more likely to abandon her young.
Seal mums leave their pups very early on in life so it’s not unusual to see one by itself. However, some pups can be separated from their mothers by storms and others don’t feed properly for whatever reason, these might need treatment. Have a look at our FAQ for advice on what to do.
If the owlet is under a possible nest site, then watch from a distance. The parents may be nearby and possibly calling. If you can hear them, leave the bird alone. Tawny owls can actually climb back up into the nest if they fall out!