Posted on May 31, 2023
By Ellie Laks, Founder of The Gentle Barn
It is finally spring and there are baby animals everywhere, filling me with a sense of responsibility to help them if they need help, and leave them alone to live their best lives when they don’t. Sadly, many wild animals get injured on the road, and I always drive slowly with my eyes wide open in case someone is in distress. Snakes cannot regulate their own temperature, so they need to warm up in the sun after a cool night. Tragically, they try to do that on warm asphalt, many times to their own detriment. Knowing that, I drive slower than others, and am ready to swerve, especially in California where there are many snakes now coming out after their long winter hibernation. In Missouri and Tennessee, we see many turtles who try to cross the road, only to get hit by cars. Whenever Jay and I see them in the road, we always pull over to help them cross to the other side safely. It is really important that when we help them cross the road, we always continue them in the same direction that they were headed.
There are animals who can be found on the side of the road who have already passed, sometimes they are alive and stunned, and other times they may appear dead, but are still breathing. When I drive by an animal on the side of the road, I always stop to check if they are alive or not. If they have passed away, I always move their bodies gently to the shoulder so if other wild animals try to eat them, they will be out of the way of traffic. I keep blankets, towels, and crates in my car so that if they are alive, I can get them to a wildlife rescue organization to get the lifesaving help that they need. When there is an opossum who has passed away, I always check to see if they are female and if so, check to see if she has babies in her pouch who will need saving.
Baby birds need to leave their nest in order to learn to fly. They flutter on the ground and seem to be in distress, but the mother is nearby and will continue to feed this fledgling until they are fully airborne. When I find a fledgling, I leave them alone. If the fledgling is in harm’s way, I carefully move them to a safer location nearby so their mom can continue to care for them. When I find a baby bird without feathers, I put them back in their nest. If I search high and low and cannot find the nest, I bring that baby to a wildlife rehab center to feed, care for, and release when they are ready. It is the same thing with baby mammals like bunnies, rats, mice, or squirrels; if they have a full coat of fur, they are already self-sufficient, and I leave them alone, moving them only if they are in danger. On hot days, I put out a shallow bowl of water for them to drink. If baby mammals are bald, I try to find the nest, and if I cannot, I get them to a rehab facility right away to raise and release them.
When transporting a wild animal to a rescue, put them in a box or crate, cover it with a blanket or towel, leave the windows up and the music off so they stay as stress free as possible. Wild animals are not used to being around humans and our voices and noises are not a source of comfort to them. We need to get them help as quietly and non-intrusively as possible. Research the names and numbers of wildlife rescues in your area now and keep them in your phone, so when you find someone who needs help, you are ready. Thank you for helping animals with me, they are truly at our mercy, for it is not the animal who crosses the road, but the road that is crossing the animal’s habitat!