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Found a baby animal on its own this spring? Here are some dos and don'ts

FILE: image of baby ducks close-up in human hands.
Iryna Sukhenko
Getty Images
FILE: image of baby ducks close-up in human hands.

Spring is baby season for many Connecticut wildlife, which means many homeowners may end up finding young critters seemingly alone and defenseless in their yards.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean they need human intervention. Wildlife rehabilitators said it depends on the species of animal and what circumstances it was found in.

Liam Shortt, from the Roaring Brook Nature Center in Canton, said he gets a lot of calls about young birds on the ground that still can't fly. He said they are actually healthy fledglings who have just left the nest.

"What happens is that mom and dad will feed them from the ground for a couple of days — up to like a week — and then they just fly away," Shortt said.

So in that case, Shortt said, just leave them alone.

But if a young animal does have a clear injury, is lethargic or is covered in insects, take action.

If the animal is small enough, he said to put it in a fleeced-lined box with a warm water bottle in a quiet spot to reduce stress.

Stress from things like noise can be deadly, especially for rabbits, he said.

“Cottontails just die if it's too stressful of an environment for them,” Shortt said.

“Don't worry about feeding it. Don't worry about giving it water. As long as you're keeping [it] out of harm's way,“ Shortt said.

Then, he said to immediately call a state-approved wildlife rehabilitator. They can be found on the Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection's website.

The Connecticut Wildlife Rehabilitators Association website is also available to help answer questions and contact rehabbers.

Its president, Laura Simon, said “there’s no universal rule” when dealing with an orphaned baby “because it all depends on the species and the circumstance.”

Simon said it’s best to turn to the experts, instead of taking matters into your own hands.

"I see it too many times,” Shortt said. “People say, 'I could do this, I got a lot of good information online,' and then a couple weeks down the line, that animal starts crashing, and then they call us. And by the time that animal gets here, it's really tough to get back into fighting shape."

Shortt said most wildlife rehabbers are volunteers, so residents need to be patient in receiving a response.

Jennifer Ahrens is a producer for Morning Edition. She spent 20+ years producing TV shows for CNN and ESPN. She joined Connecticut Public Media because it lets her report on her two passions, nature and animals.