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I FOUND A WILD BABY MAMMAL! What I should and shouldn't do?
If it’s a baby squirrel, it’s good to take a look at the tree branches as its mother might be looking at it from above. Squirrels sometimes carry their babies from one nest to another and it happens to drop one of them. If you see a squirrel above, don’t touch the baby. Step aside at least 5 meters and give its mother the chance to come down and pick it up. In reality, however, mother squirrels often throw out their sick babies. Even if the squirrel is on the tree, she will not come down to pick the baby up if she has thrown it out. Keep in mind to also look carefully at the baby without touching it, because it may have a broken limb from the fall. In this case, even if the mother hasn’t thrown it out, it will need treatment.
Our experience from previous years has shown that many babies do not survive because of the attempts of people, who do not know what to do, take in order to help them. This is why we have prepared some advice to follow when having found a baby mammal so that it would stay alive until we receive it for specialised care and upbringing. It is important to know that this advice is about primary basic care and first aid so it is not appropriate for long periods of time or for the correct overall raising of the baby. This is not by accident. We do not want to encourage raising wild baby mammals at home. Raising them at home and without the necessary overall knowledge is not right from an ethical point of view. It ultimately leads to taming the animal and makes it impossible to release it in the wild at a later stage. If it does get released after raising it, it will most likely become a victim of a predator due to its inability to fit into the wild without the necessary capabilities. The ability to find proper food in the wild is taught during the upbringing and without it, even if you raise a healthy baby, it will die in the wild because it is not capable of finding food.
Raising a wild baby at home will also mean getting used to and adjusting the human habits and way of life to its needs – noise, warmth, behaviour of people and pets, assignment of a separate premise and considerable amount of money. People usually do exactly the opposite – they adjust the baby’s habits to their own, so that it comfortably fits into their human living regime. This instantly changes the baby’s habits and behaviour, which is already an obstacle to obtaining vital survival skills and its future life in the wild.
The five basic things you need to know in order to secure the survival of the wild baby at first are:
It is important to know that you need to follow the exact sequence of the steps above, because only after the baby has been accommodated and warmed up, can it take liquids and food. When it is cold, it is barely moving, lethargic and limb. It can even look like dead. If it is immediately stuffed with food before its body is warmed up and rehydrated, the feeding can directly kill it. You should also keep in mind, however, that taking liquids only through the mouth is often not enough and mixing food with liquids can sometimes lead to grave consequences for the baby’s health.
It is important to keep in mind that the baby must be touched only with clean, well washed hands. Something like “…but I have not touched anything dirty…” is not valid when it comes to a baby. You can infect the weak organism with life-threatening bacteria through your hands without even suspecting. If you have pets and you have touched them, irrespective of whether you believe they are the cleanest creatures, wash your hands before you touch the baby. Of course, it is impossible to wash your hands before you first pick up the baby if you are having a walk outside, but keep it in mind for the further caring, because it is extremely important.
Most people make the grave mistake of holding the baby constantly, carrying it around and showing it to other people or their pets, giving it to their kids to pet it or letting it move around the house. Doing any of the above is absolutely not recommended not only because it threatens the baby’s life, as it exhausts it and subjects it to unnecessary stress, but also because it is potentially dangerous to people. Some of the babies are carriers of parasites and diseases, which might be the reason why they were cast away by their parents.
The baby has to be IMMEDIATELY put in a small, cozy space, consistent with its size. A small carton, small transportation box for an animal or a shoe box would be perfect options. It is enough to punch approximately 10 holes with a pen so that air can come in, but otherwise the box needs to be tightly closed and to stay closed. Do not underestimate the capabilities of a baby squirrel, dormouse or hedgehog to discover the way of freedom from a loosely covered box :) Secure the lid with some kind of weight, but without the possibility for the lid to sag in and the weight to fall on the baby.
Lay soft covers on the bottom of the box – a towel, a piece of warm cloth or even kitchen roll. Provide for space for a bottle of warm water, but so that there is enough free area for the baby to move to a chillier corner if it gets too warm. Ideally, set up something where the baby can burrow itself in. They do not feel good when lying on a flat surface, they always want to snuggle somewhere.
Warmth is extremely important for an orphaned baby. In most cases, babies spend a long time outside their hollows or nests, without a mother who would take care of them and keep them warm, before being found by a person. This is why, many of the babies we receive already have pneumonia and warmth is a key factor in the successful fight against this life-threatening condition. Many people get misled that the warmth in a human home is enough for a baby mammal, but this is not true. Even if it’s a warm summer and people feel hot, the baby needs additional warmth. It is not enough to keep it snuggled in your hands and to warm it up with your body temperature. Well, surely, until you get to a source of heat, it would be good to put it in your clothes as close to skin as possible so that you can warm it up as much as you can, but you need to be quick to provide it with intensive heat source, which it can enjoy relaxing and not on you or in your hands.
Warmth can be provided in two basic ways – warm water in a used bottle, or specialised hot-water bottle, or electric pillow. Take a plastic bottle with thicker walls or a hot-water bottle and fill it with hot water so that you can barely keep it in your hand. After that wrap it in a towel, piece of cloth or just put it inside a sock. As a last resort, use a kitchen towel or tissue, but be careful not to leave a part of the bottle uncovered so that the baby cannot get between the bottle and the cover and not be able to get out. If you use a piece of cloth or a towel, be careful not to have hanging threads so that the baby doesn’t get entangled in them while moving.
It is important to check that the lid of the bottle doesn’t leak before you place it in the box. Sometimes heat can deform the plastic and the lid starts leaking. Shake the bottle upside down a couple of times to make sure it doesn’t leak. If you use a bottle, make sure that it is stable and doesn’t roll over, but also don’t fix it completely statically, because you will need to change the water with warm every two hours.
The second option is to use an electric pillow, but it heats up too strongly and at some point, the baby can get a heat stroke. If you decide to use the pillow, you need to vigilantly monitor the situation and adjust if necessary. You should turn the pillow on at medium, if available or at a low power and place it on the side of the carton/box or on top, on a part of the “ceiling”. If placed on the bottom, the heat rises, inevitably warming up the whole space and you risk overheating the baby. As a last resort, you can place it partly under the carton/box. One way or another, you need to check the heat throughout the day and night at regular intervals.
ATTENTION! It happens rarely, but it is possible that the found baby is not with hypothermia (cold), but is overheat, hot and limb. In this case, first make sure to GRADUALLY cool it down without making it cold. Do not use wet compresses for cooling down or any other known methods from our human lives. Just place the baby in a cooler, shady space so that it can gradually cool down. The sudden cooling can kill it. In moments like these, it is important to ensure the baby its tranquility, because additional stress can also kill it. Only when it comes to, can it be placed somewhere warm as discussed above.
DO NOT LEAVE THE BOX IN THE SUN! This will increase the temperature uncontrollably and it is very likely that the baby will get a heat stroke. Keep in mind that if you let the water in the bottle get cold, not only you will not be warming up the baby, but you will be cooling it down. Furthermore, the tinier the baby is, the more susceptible it is to changing conditions, including heating and cooling. Care to maintain a relatively constant temperature without compromising this commitment of yours. The need of high temperature DOES NOT mean a lack of ventilation. Make sure it is not too stuffy in the box without allowing for a draught.
Hydration is a vital stage of first aid to an orphaned wild baby. When finding a baby animal, most people immediately ask “What should I feed it with?”, but this is by far not as important of a first aid as hydration. When the baby is already warmed up, give it a few drops of WARM WATER on the split between the lips with a pipette or a syringe. Wait for it to move its lips and see it swallow. In such a way, give it water drop by drop until it stops taking it. The quantity of water, which is good for the baby to drink, depends on its size, so there isn’t a universal recipe. You can give it water in that way every few hours during the day. Be careful not to choke the baby and protect its nostrils so that the water doesn’t come in through them.
You need to keep in mind, however, that the intake of liquids only through the mouth is not enough, but the other alternatives are available only if you have specialised knowledge. ATTENTION! If the baby that you found is hot and limb, after you have cooled it down (without freezing it), it is imperative that you give it water with room temperature (not cold).
As a rule of thumb, people think that the food comprises by far the most important care for a baby. And this is the root of the big problem with inappropriate food. Some of the baby mammals found by people and sent to us for raising, subsequently die and when clarifying the reasons for the death, it always turns out that they have been fed at least once with inappropriate food while in people’s homes.
What you should definitely know is that you should NEVER FEED THE BABY WITH MILK FROM THE SHOP OR COW MILK IN GENERAL EVEN HOMEPRODUCED. Even if you don’t have the suitable milk, do not give it cow milk by any means. Of course, you will always hear someone say that they have raised a bunny, hedgehog, squirrel or dormouse with cow milk and the animal was fine. The fact that it “looks fine” in the eyes of a person who has no experience in raising wild species, does not mean that its digestive system hasn’t been damaged of that health and problems will not manifest with time. As we stated in the beginning, we purposefully do not give you instructions how and with what to feed the baby, because we really hope that you will be reasonable and will do everything possible for the baby to reach specialised care as soon as possible so that it will have the chance of proper upbringing and real wild life. If it is imperative that you feed the baby while we are organizing transportation, you will receive instructions about what type of food to look for and how to feed it. Do not improvise and risk its life.
Do not forget:
- Soft and cozy bedding
- Warmth, placed in a way not to squish the baby, and leave it a chillier corner
- Something soft where the baby can snuggle
- Warm water for hydration
- Never cow milk or milk from the shop