Does this animal need help?

Or is it exhibiting normal wildlife behavior?

Evaluate an Animal’s Welfare and Rescue Options

The difference between ASSISTANCE and INTERFERENCE:

MYTH: Mom will not accept her baby if handled by humans

This is completely false. All mothers will accept their babies back. If you or someone else has removed it from a nest, please return the animal to its nest. In some cases, you may be unsure whether wildlife needs help. Each case is different but in general follow guideline below.


Does this animal/baby really need assistance? Or Is it a baby just waiting for mom?

In many species, mothers leave their babies to look for food and in some cases for their protection. You may watch the nest from a distance but do not hover near it. If mom sees you near her nest she will avoid returning while you are near her babies.


• Bleeding and/or obvious injuries
• Shivering and/or cold
• Dead mother nearby
• Infested with parasites: flies, maggots


• Put the animal in a box, carrier or a plastic bins with small air holes.
• Use t-shirts or fleece as bedding to keep them warm and to hide in. Avoid use of towels or fabrics with loops/loose threads because animals can get their claws caught in the loops.
• Place animal indoors in a safe, quiet, and dark room.
• Have minimal contact with the animal. Avoid contact between the injured animal and pets, other animals, or children.


Place half of the box on a heating pad on low. This way the animal can move to the cooler section of the box if it gets too warm on the warm side of the box, and not be burned or overheated.

If you do not have a heating pad you can use a hot water bottle placed in tube sock or make a rice buddy. To make a rice buddy, take a sock and fill with uncooked rice (any kind), tie a knot on end and microwave in 30 second increments until warm. Please be sure to wrap any heating source placed inside box to eliminate risk of burns.


Avoid your first instinct to offer food or water when helping an animal. It does more harm than good, especially with orphaned babies who eat a special diet. Giving the animal liquids may cause drowning and /or pnemonia and death.



All wild mammals are illegal to possess without a special permit in New Jersey. You may only possess wildlife for 24‑48 hours while locating or transporting an animal to a licensed wildlife rehabilitator.

Each animal situation has a different means of handling. Please see the section below that corresponds to your animal emergency and contact Garden State Wildlife Center at (732) 908-2345 or a licensed NJ wildlife rehabilitator.

Do not attempt to rescue an injured or sick adult deer yourself. Special precautions need to be taken when dealing with this type of wild animal. They can be very frightened and lash out at you with their sharp hooves or their antlers. Contact your local animal control and/or police dept.

Spotted fawns found hiding in the brush should be left alone as the mother may be nearby and waiting for you to retreat. Check on the fawn 12 hours later and if it is still there it may be orphaned. The mom might leave the fawn in one place for 24 hours. If the fawn is seen running around aimlessly, it is likely abandoned. If the animal is in immediate danger, proceed very cautiously when moving it to a safer spot until an experienced person arrives. It is best to keep minimal contact with the animal as they stress easily. If the baby is curled up l and resting it is waiting for mom. If the baby is obviously injured, lying flat on the ground, mom is dead nearby or flies/maggots are on the baby it needs help asap. If it is in immediate danger proceed very cautiously, cover its eyes and head with a towel or blanket and move it to a safer spot until help arrives. Keep contact to a minimum because they stress easily and stress can kill.

• A fawn is found curled up next to a dead doe
• If crying out (bleating) for hours
• If it has diarrhea, maggots, broken bones, severe scrapes or deep puncture wounds
• If severely dehydrated
• If it is cold
• If found lying on its side with outstretched limbs

Cover fawns eyes and head with towel or small blanket and gently place in a large box, rubbermaid bin with air holes or pet carrier. Place in warm, quiet, dark area away from people and other animals. Call GSWC or your local animal control. If transporting on your own please be very quiet and avoid sudden noises and movements.

Most opossum babies end up orphaned, because Mom was hit by a car or killed by dogs. Others become “orphaned” when they fall from her back or are somehow separated. Opossums that are sick, injured, or too young to be on their own (less than 7 inches long from nose to rump, not including tail) are in need of immediate asssistance. If a young opossum is found, check the surrounding area. There may be more as Mom can have up to 13 babies.

If you happen to see or hit an opossum with your car -take a minute and make sure that there are no babies on the animal, because they survive a lot within momma’s pouch.

Heavy leather gloves should be worn when attempting to capture an adult Opossum. An Adult Opossum that is inactive and does not respond to your approach can be picked up using a large towel and placed into a large box or bin with air holes or a pet carrier.

Adult Opossums that are more active can be captured by placing the open box over the top of the Opossum. Gently slide the lid of the box under the container and then slowly turn the box right-side up.

Opossums may also be picked up by grasping firmly at the base of their tail nearest to their body and gently placing into a waiting transport container. Do not attempt to pick up an Opossum by holding on to the end of their tail. Keep the contained Opossum in an dark, quiet area where it will be warm. You may see an adult adult oppossum that appeaars dead but check closely It may be “playing possum” which is an involuntary response to a threat, The opossum becomes comatose in the face of danger and appears dead. This may last from 40 minutes to 4 hours. During this time, the opossum lies on its side, becomes stiff, the eyes glaze over, the opossum drools, the tongue lolls out the side of the mouth, and green anal fluid may be seen. This fascinating defense mechanism helps the opossum survive an attack from a predator because many predators give up the attack if they believe the opossum is already dead. Leave the area and give the opossum a chance to recover and move on. The opossum will not respond to prodding or poking. When the opossum is about to recover, the ears move very slightly.

If the babies are pink and do not have fur they need help immediately. The longer they are out of pouch the less their chances of survival.

Put the in a box and keep it warm. If placed on a heating pad set on low, place 1/2 of the container on the heat source the other 1/2 off, babies can overheat and die, give them something to hide under such as a t-shirt.

• Place it in a quiet dark room

• Do not feed or give any liquids.

If you discover a nest of bunnies in the wild and the mother is nowhere to be seen, please DO NOT disturb them. This is normal since the mother only returns to the babies to feed them at dawn and dusk, otherwise they are alone. By removing them from the nest you are greatly reducing their chances of survival.

• More than four inches long

• Have full fur, open eyes, and erect ears (size of tennis ball when crouching). Rabbit nests are usually found in a shallow, fur lined depression in the grass. If you come upon furless young who are out of the nest, return them to the nest. Reform the nest if it has been destroyed; cover the young rabbits with loose grass. You can place small twigs, string, or yarn across the nest in an X or sprinkle flour in a circle around the nest area. You will be able to tell if mom came back if flour or X has been disturbed.

Female rabbits only feed their babies at dawn and dusk, so you are unlikely to see the mother return. If the flour or X remains undisturbed and the baby rabbits’ abdomens appear sunken the next day, then the mother has not returned to feed them, and you should contact a rehabilitator. Young rabbits easily succumb to stress, so handle them only as a last resort.

• Put the rabbit in a closed escape-proof container with a soft ravel-free cloth.

• If the eyes are closed, it will require a small amount of heat. You may put the box half on and half off a heating pad set on low. Monitor it so it does not get too hot, the rabbit should feel warm, but not hot to the touch. Older rabbits will not require heat.|

• Cover the box with a towel, and put it in a quiet place away from children and pets|

• Do not attempt to feed baby bunnies. They have very sensitive digestive systems and need special formula.

We often get calls for injured rabbits. Generally they have been hit by a car, cat caught or hawk caught. Many of these are successfully treated and released back into the wild.

If you find an injured rabbit, cover its eyes and head with cloth, pick it up and contain it in a box with cloth in a quiet place away from children or other animals. Rabbits are easily stressed and can die from stress easily. Never pick up a rabbit by its ears.

It is important to keep the adult rabbit as calm as possible to reduce a potentially fatal side-effect of stress. When transporting the rabbit avoid loud, sudden noises and please keep the radio in the vehicle off and avoid talking as much as possible.

Raccoons are a rabies vector species.. Anyone who gets bitten while handling a raccoon should notify their physician and public health department within 24 hours, and the raccoon should be held for testing and not handled. Special precautions need to be taken when dealing with this type of wild animal. They can carry rabies and Baylisascaris worms, both of which are transmissible to humans. They also carry distemper and parvovirus which can be transmitted to your pets. Any raccoon with paralysis, unsteadiness, discharges from nose and eyes or unusual behavior may be suffering from distemper, parvovirus, rabies or other diseases. Contact your local Animal Control for advice if an animal with these symptoms is seen.

Be very careful not to create orphan raccoons by accident. When a baby raccoon is separated from its mother during the night, the baby will stay where it is until the mother returns. People often find a sleeping baby raccoon and will assume it needs to be rescued. However, it is likely that the mother will be back after dark. If the baby raccoon is not in imminent danger, it’s best to observe the baby for another 24 hours without disturbing it. Older babies may play during the day wile their nocturnal mother is sleeping nearby. Mother raccoons often give birth in the spring in and around our homes.

When homeowners hire pest control companies to remove the mother, babies are left behind. The best solution is to wait a few weeks until the babies are mobile and joining their mother for foraging. After they’ve left your dwelling for the evening, it’s safe to close their access for good.

• Always wear heavy leather gloves when handling raccoons.
• Place a soft cloth or an old t-shirt in the bottom of a box with air holes, or a kennel / pet carier.
• Keep the box warm by on a heating pad set on low.
• Carefully lift the baby and place it in the box.
• Place it in a warm, dark quiet place away from other animals and people.

Adult raccoons can be difficult to catch. It is best to try to use a humane trap to catch them. If an adult raccoon is cornered or captured, it will struggle to break free causing itself great harm in the process.

If you see an adult raccoon that is injured and/or not moving approach cautiously and assess the situation. If the animal runs away do not chase or corner it. Call your local animal control or GSWC for advice. Do not attempt to handle feed or move adult raccoons. They can be very vicious and aggressive, can move quickly, and can cause serious injury to you and themselves.

Skunks are a rabies vector species. Anyone who gets bitten while handling a skunk should notify their physician and public health department within 24 hours, and the skunk should be held for testing and not handled. Any skunk with paralysis, unsteadiness, discharges from nose and eyes or unusual behavior may be suffering from distemper, encephalitis, rabies or other diseases. Contact your local department of Animal Control and/or GSWC for advice if an animal with these symptoms is seen.

Under normal circumstances you will not see these babies until they are fully furred and capable of following Mom out of the den at night to go out foraging for bugs. There are a couple of different circumstances that cause orphaned babies that are in need of intervention.

• Mom was hit by a car or is otherwise deceased.

• Mom was trapped or killed by a homeowner on purpose and the babies were not discovered until AFTER she was relocated or killed.

Any time that you find baby skunks wandering around alone, with no parent anywhere to be seen, there is reason for concern. Unless the babies are super-tiny, eyes-closed babies, Mom shouldn’t be too far away from them. If it is day time, babies should not be wandering around outside of the den without Mom. If it is after dark, watch them for an hour or two from a distance and if you do not see Mom during that period of time, there may be a problem. All skunks, no matter how small, CAN spray and WILL do so when scared or cornered.

Depending on how old babies are, you need to be concerned about BOTH ENDS of the skunk when trying to approach them. They will BITE and SPRAY. The simplest way to ‘catch’ baby skunks is with a cardboard box or laundry basket. (Make sure the laundry basket has a slats in it that are small enough that the babies can’t escape) If you have to handle the skunks make sure you wear gloves. To reduce the risk of being sprayed cover them with a towel and tuck their tail under their body as you lift them.

• Baby skunks whose eyes are still closed and whose fur is still short should be kept warm

• Place the box on a heating pad

If an individual or group of squirrels has fallen from a nest, it is important to try and reunite the babies with their mother before a decision is made to bring them to a rehabilitation facility. If a baby squirrel has been injured in a fall from the nest, it will likely need medical attention.

• Make sure that all of the uninjured babies are warm. Depending upon the amount of time that the babies have been out of the nest, they may need some supplemental heat during the reuniting process. A hot water bottle filled with warm water can be used, as well as a sock filled with dry rice that has been microwaved at 30 second increments until warm.

• The babies can be placed in a shoebox or basket lined with a t-shirt or pillowcase with the supplemental heat source underneath the bedding (so that they are not in direct contact with it). Make sure they are exposed so the mom can see them easily.

• Place the box at the base of the tree that the babies fell from. You can also affix the box to the side of the tree or up on a branch by the trunk. The mother should be searching for them and upon discovering them will take them back up to the nest individually. If the nest has been destroyed due to tree trimming or the wind, it will take her some time to find a suitable location so you will need to be patient.

• If the mother does not return right away, check on the babies every hour to make sure that they are warm and active. If she has not returned by dusk, bring the babies inside and continue to keep them warm. Do not attempt to feed the babies.

• If it has been less than 12 hours since the babies initially fell from the tree, attempt another reuniting session the next morning. If it has been more than 12 hours since the babies fell and the initial reuniting attempt, contact a wildlife rehabilitator.

• Pick up the baby with a soft cloth

• Place squirrel in an escape-proof container (pet kennel) with non-terrycloth fabric (eg. fleece, t-shirt, etc.).

• Put the escape-proof container half on & half off of a towel-covered heating pad set on low. This way the squirrel can move onto the cooler part of the surface if it becomes too warm on the warm surface.

• Monitor so the animal is warm to the touch, but not hot.

• Keep the container in a quiet area, away from children and pets.

• Do not attempt to feed any type of formula or solid foods. Baby squirrels aspirate very easily. It’s best to leave feeding to a qualified caretaker.

Do not attempt to handle it without heavy gloves. Cover it with a towel or heavy blanket before attempting to pick it up.

• If injured you could also gently nudge it into a box, bucket or carrier with the end of a broom, piece of cardboard or other similar object. Cover the container snugly (make sure there are air holes).

• Set the container half-on, half-off a towel-covered heating pad set on low, in a quiet area away from children and pets.

• Do not put food or water into the container. If the squirrel is in shock or has other issues, the food and water could cause more harm than good.