What To Do If You Find A Baby Mammal

Is the baby mammal a rabbit, deer fawn, or opossum?

Baby Rabbit:

If the nest is still intact, wearing gloves or using a towel, place the baby or babies back into the nest and cover with leaves, grass, or twigs. The nest will be a shallow depression in the ground, lined with fur. It most likely will be located under a bush, in a garden, lawn, or other form of cover. Leave the area. If a person, or some sort of danger is present, the mother may not return. The mother usually visits the nest at dawn and dusk to feed the babies. You can criss-cross pieces of yarn over the top of the nest. If you see that they have been moved, you’ll know that the mother is coming to the nest. Unless you know that the mother has been injured or killed, the babies do not need to be saved.

If the baby rabbits are at least four to five inches long, able to hop and have their eyes open and ears up, and there are no visible signs of injury, leave them alone. They are old enough at three to four weeks of age to be on their own.

Fawn (Baby Deer):

If YES, then:
Mothers normally leave their babies alone while they forage for food. If the baby looks cold, hungry, diseased or confused, or if dogs or other animals or people are threatening its safety, or if you have found the mother dead, call a wildlife rehabilitator. (Refer to list at bottom of this page.) Otherwise leave the baby alone and leave the area. The mother will not return if people or pets are present or if there is any danger.


Young opossums who are five to six inches long, excluding their tail, are large enough to be independent from their mothers. If you find an opossum that is five to six inches long and does not seem to be in distress, leave it alone. If you are uncertain of whether or not the animal is in distress, call a licensed rehabilitator (see list).

If NO, then:
Is the baby mammal hurt or sick? Is it bleeding, vomiting, shivering, lethargic, or does it look like it has been attacked by another animal?

If YES, then:
Call a rehabilitator (see list).

If NO, then:
Can you find the nest or den? Is it intact?

If YES, then:
Place the baby in its nest or den. (Remember to wear gloves.) Keep all pets and people away and watch from a distance.

If NO, then:
Place the baby in a surrogate nest close, to where it was found and off the ground. (See the description at the bottom of this page.) Keep all pets and people away and watch from a distance.

Are the parents visiting the nest or den? (Note: you may have to stay out of sight/undercover for several hours. The parents will not return if they sense danger, and they may become aggressive if they see you as a threat).

If YES, then:
Leave the area. The baby is fine and the mother will return once the threat is gone.

If NO, then:
Call a rehabilitator (see list).


Don’t be a kidnapper

Every year, many people upset the lives of young wild animals, when they only mean to help. They take fledgling birds, young rabbits or other animals from the wild in a mistaken attempt to save them.


* If the animal is not injured, please do not remove it from its location to be rescued, unless you are certain that the mother is injured or killed. All mammals are nursed by their mother until they are weaned. All species of mammals are weaned at different ages and each species requires a specific formula. Feeding regular milk can cause further harm, or even death, to some animals. So do not administer any kind of milk or water. Just stay calm, and keep the animal in a warm, dark, quiet place until you have contacted a wildlife rehabilitator.

How to safely contain a wild animal to transport to a wildlife rehabilitation

  1. Find a suitable container (cardboard box, pet carrier, shoebox) and poke air holes in it. If needed, line it with a soft, clean cloth.
  2. Gently pick up the animal (make sure to wear gloves) and place in the container
  3. Place the container on a heating pad, on the lowest setting. If a heating pad is not available use a hot water bottle or a plastic soda bottle filled with hot water, and covered with a towel. Place it inside the container next to the animal, for warmth.
  4. Secure the container so the animal cannot crawl or jump out.
  5. Keep the container in a warm, dark, quiet place. Do not administer food or water. Leave the animal alone.
  6. Take the animal to a licensed wildlife rehabilitator as soon as possible.

NOTE: It is illegal in New York State to possess any wild animal unless you are transporting it to a NYS wildlife rehabilitator. It is also illegal to keep any wild animal as a pet. Any violations should be reported to the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Law Enforcement. For more info: (845) 256-3098.

How to Make a Surrogate Nest

  1. Find a container, such as a basket or box (not plastic because it can fill with water or fluids).
  2. Fill the box with leaves, paper towels, or a soft, clean cloth.
  3. Place the nest in the tree or bush closest to where the animal was found, out of the sun and rain, as high up as possible
  4. Place the animal in the nest and leave the area.

The mother will hear the distress calls and return to the baby(ies) to care for them or move them to a safer place!

List of Wildlife Rehabilitators