If you find a baby animal and are certain that it is truly orphaned— for example, because you actually saw the mother’s body nearby or because the babies are clearly emaciated— the most important thing you can do is keep it warm!
Hypothermia— freezing to death— is the most common cause of death in orphaned animals. It tends to kill even faster than dehydration and hunger. Baby birds and mammals can’t regulate their own body temperatures, and depend on their mothers’ body heat to stay safe. When a baby’s temperature drops, there are only minutes to hours left before it’s too late.
While you contact a wildlife rehabilitator, be sure to provide any orphaned wildlife with an external heat source. An incubator or heating pad is ideal, but if you don’t have those, you can microwave a sock filled with rice for one minute. If it’s too hot to the touch, wrap it in a blanket before tucking it beside the critter.
Please remember that blankets alone can’t keep a newborn baby animal warm. Until they are older, baby mammals and birds don’t produce enough of their own body heat to survive, even when wrapped in blankets.
When it comes to saving wildlife, we depend on everyday people like you to provide the first moments of critical care. Please help us save lives this baby season by keeping little ones warm until you’re able to get them to a licensed rehabilitator!