I found a baby mammal, now what?
Do I need to help, and if so, how?
If you find a baby mammal on the ground, it may not be injured or orphaned. Many wildlife parents leave their young alone during the day, sometimes for long periods. The young need to remain hidden, or at least quiet, to survive. If it does need assistance, do not worry about briefly needing to move the animal. Parents will not reject their baby just because it was handled briefly by humans.
Any baby that is clearly injured or was caught by a cat or dog needs to come in for care. Otherwise, we have more species specific instructions below.
- Fallen from nest: If the baby appears injured, please call the Hawkline and bring in. If it does not appear injured, take a picture, then call the Hawkline. They will have you text the picture and give further advice on reuniting the baby with the mother if possible.
- Cat/Dog brought in: The baby will need antibiotics, even if it appears uninjured. Call the Hawkline and bring it in.
- Whole nest of babies fell down: Take a picture and call the Hawkline. We will give further instructions on reuniting the family. Mother squirrels often have a backup nest, and if the babies are young enough, she may be able to take them to a new nest site.
- Following humans, climbing on humans, trying to get indoors: This is the behavior of a desperate orphaned squirrel. Please call the Hawkline and bring in.
Squirrels are the most common babies that people try to illegally raise for pets. They are illegal as pets partially because when older they can be dangerous. Please bring us any orphaned baby squirrels as soon as possible so we can give them their best chance at a free, wild life.
If you see a dead opossum, check to see if it is female and still has young in her pouch. If she does, bring in the dead mother with the babies still in the pouch. Do not attempt to remove the babies by yourself. If the opossum is less than 7 inches long from the tip of the nose to the base of the tail and it is without its mother, bring it in. Any opossum that is lethargic and approachable in the daytime may also be in trouble.
If you find a nest of baby raccoons, leave it alone. The mother is often nearby. It is illegal to trap and relocate nuisance wildlife. Avoid hiring trappers to catch and euthanize raccoons during their baby season- April-September. Instead hire a wildlife exclusion service to help you determine if a raccoon family is involved and how best to humanely evict them. If the mother has already been trapped and killed, and the babies still have closed eyes, WEAR GLOVES, gently place in a box with a soft towel, and call the Hawkline to bring in. If the babies have eyes open and teeth, or you have found an injured adult raccoon, please do not attempt to rescue them yourself, call the Hawkline for rescue assistance.
A fawn (baby deer) may be curled upon the ground and appears approachable. The mother is likely nearby and watching you. If you have watched all day and are concerned, take a picture of the fawn that shows its ears. Call the Hawkline, they will have you text them the picture, and they can give you a better idea if the fawn is in trouble. A spotted fawn up and wandering and crying out is in trouble. Call the Hawkline for rescue help.
We can only help SPOTTED fawns. If you need assistance with a deer that does not have spots, please call Animal Control at (707) 253-4452.
Jackrabbits have a nest that is a shallow dugout on the ground. If you find a nest, leave it alone. Jackrabbit mothers will often not leave babies in the same place so if you find individual babies, leave them alone. A quiet small rabbit alone is normal. If a rabbit is caught by a cat or dog, it must come in for care and antibiotics even if it appears uninjured.
It is common to see fox kits or coyote pups playing outside their den site during the day. The parent may be asleep in the den. If they are active and retreat into the den if approached this is normal behavior.
If they are lethargic, look skinny, or are covered in fleas or lice, they are orphaned and need assistance. A solo pup or kit wandering during the day is also unusual. Call the Hawkline for rescue help.
Do not attempt to rescue foxes or coyotes on your own. Please call the Hawkline for rescue assistance.
Skunk babies also will sometimes play around their den site during the day while the mother sleeps. The mother will lead them around to practice foraging when they are older. Skunks can spray before they can open their eyes. Moving slowly with a towel in front of you is the best way to avoid being sprayed. A solo skunk baby out in the day, away from any potential den site may need assistance. If a dead skunk is seen on the road, and suddenly babies emerge, please call our Hawkline for further advice. We are also available to help with skunk rescues.
NEVER TOUCH A BAT WITH BARE HANDS! Bats are the most commonly rabid animal in California. We use special safety precautions to protect ourselves when working with these amazing insectivores.
If the bat bit a human, was caught by your cat or dog, or the bat was found in a room with an elderly, disabled, or sleeping person, or a child, please call Animal Control at (707) 253-4452. The bat will need to be tested for rabies for human and pet safety.
All bats in Napa are small. Truly baby bats are extra wrinkly and have very little fur. A baby bat on the ground needs help. If you find a bat on the ground or in a room that has not been occupied, or you saw it come in and have known where it was the whole time, please call the Hawkline for rescue assistance.
How to Rescue a Baby Mammal
(Only adults should rescue baby mammals.)
- Prepare a container. Place a clean, soft cloth with no strings on the bottom of a cardboard box with lid (add air holes if needed )or cat/dog carrier.
- Protect yourself. Wear gloves, if possible. Mammals can scratch even when they do not have teeth yet. If the mammal is an adult or has large teeth, please do not attempt to rescue yourself and call the Hawkline for assistance.
- Cover the mammal with a light cloth or towel. Gently pick up the mammal and put it in the prepared container. Note where you found the mammal- this is important for potentially reuniting the baby mammal with family. Wash your hands after handling the mammal.
- Keep the mammal warm, dark, quiet, and away from children and pets. If the mammal is very young and has little fur, you’ll need to provide warmth. Put dry rice or beans in a sock, tie it shut, then microwave until warm but not boiling hot. Place the heat sock near the mammal, so it can get closer if it feels cold, move away if it feels too hot.
- Immediately bring it to 4001 Middle Ave., Napa. Keep the mammal in the container. When transporting the mammal, keep voice and noise levels low. Do not play the radio/music and refrain from talking.
- We’ll receive the mammal, give it an exam, and if healthy, may need your help to reunite the baby with its parents or return it to where it was found. Thanks for your help!
- Caution: Wild mammals often have parasites and sometimes have diseases that can pass to your pets or even you. Please wear gloves, wash hands, and if the baby mammal touches your clothes, change clothes before interacting with kids or pets to be extra cautious and keep your loved ones safe. If you used your pet’s cage to transport a baby mammal, please clean any dirt or debris in the kennel off with soap and water, rinse, and follow up by disinfecting with bleach or lysol according to the package instructions. Wash any soft items like towels or clothes that you used with the animal on the hot setting of the washer with bleach.