Wildlife FAQ

Injured and Orphaned Wildlife

Trailside Museums & Zoo does not accept injured or orphaned wildlife. Trailside is not a wildlife rescue or rehabilitation facility.

Concerned about an injured or orphaned animal:

Contact a Licensed Wildlife Rehabilitator before moving, touching or handling the animal.

Find a Licensed Wildlife Rehabilitator in your state:

New York State:

New Jersey: 


How to Rescue an injured or orphaned wild animal:

  • Contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator before rescuing or transporting any wild animal.
  • Tell the rehabilitator the location you found the animal and the circumstances. The location is important for release.
  • Follow the wildlife rehabilitator’s instructions.
  • Please note: A wild animal will try to protect itself when frightened. Be safe.
  • Use a suitable container, such as a cardboard box or pet carrier.
  • Poke air holes in the box or container. Line with a clean, soft cloth or paper towels.
  • Wearing gloves or covering the animal with towel, place animal in the container.
  • Close the container securely so the animal cannot crawl or jump out.
  • Keep the animal in a warm, dark and quiet place away from children and pets. Do not handle as stress can kill from over handling.
  • Do not give water or food.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly.

Licensed Wildlife Rehabilitators are volunteers with special training and licensing. Contact rehabilitators during the day and be respectful. They may not be able to accept and care for every injured or orphaned animal. They can give you more information on your specific situation. Unless you are licensed, it is illegal to possess a live wild animal in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. State governments do not provide funding to wildlife rehabilitators for equipment, care, feeding and any necessary veterinary care and medicines.

Baby Animals

Many baby animals spend most of their day alone, waiting for their mothers to return. Wild animals require special care and diets to recover from injuries or to develop into healthy, independent adults. The wrong care or diet can be deadly or leave the animal with disabilities.

Do not use the internet for wildlife care advice

Beware of websites providing recommendations on feeding wild animals. Internet recipes contain items from the grocery or pet store. These items may cause serious digestive upset in the short term and major nutritional deficiency in the long term. Steer clear of any website that recommends giving anything to the animal.

Check website for Wildlife Rehabilitation licenses, credential and permits in your state. Do not take advice from any website or person who does not provide licensing credentials. Wildlife Rehabilitators will tell you up front how to contact them and when and where to take the wild animal. If that information is not available, do not take advice on that website.

Do not keep wildlife as pets

Wild animals are beautiful and interesting. Wildlife adults suffering from trauma can be friendly. But, wild animals are not pets. They need their natural diets to maintain and regain health and their outdoor landscapes to learn their natural behaviors and thrive. Keeping a wild animal as a pet deprives the animal of its basic needs and opportunities. Also, wild animals can carry diseases and parasites that can infect you or your family. It’s illegal to keep wild animals in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

Deer—found a fawn

Fawns spend their days alone waiting for their moms to return in the evening. Moms forage during the day. If the fawn seems healthy, leave it be so that you don’t stress it. Its mom will return. Call a wildlife rehabilitator is the fawn is injured or if you know the mom is dead.

Bird—found a Baby Bird or Injured Bird

Young birds may need no help at all or only a little help. Parents will not reject baby birds if humans have touched them. In most cases though, leave them be.

Nestlings are young birds with downy, fuzzy feathers. If they are on the ground and uninjured, return them to the nest or make a surrogate nest.

Fledglings are young birds learning to fly. They spend time on the ground with their parents protecting and feeding them. Keep pets away. Teach children to observe from a distance.

Bird Surrogate Nest

Use a small box or plastic container. Punch holes in the bottom. Line with leaves, paper towels or clean, soft cloth. Wear gloves while placing the bird in the nest. Put nest in the tree or shrub closest to where you found the bird, out of sun and rain and as high as possible. Leave the area.

Bird Window Strikes

If a bird hits the window and can’t fly away, put it in a box with air holes and put it in a warm, dark and quiet outdoor place for one to two hours. If it doesn’t fly away within two hours, contact the nearest wildlife rehabilitator for instructions.

When to Rescue a Bird

A rescue may be needed if a bird is bleeding, shivering, lethargic or unresponsive, was attacked by a cat or dog, or its parents or siblings are known to be dead. Contact a wildlife rehabilitator.

Duck or Goose—found a Duckling or Gosling

Ducks and geese leave the nest shortly after birth. The mother leads them to food sources and safe places and provides warmth. If you find a baby duck or goose separated from its family, place it close to its flock so the mother can hear the baby. If the baby rejoins the flock and mother doesn’t reject it, leave the area. If the baby is rejected or the mother cannot be found, call a wildlife rehabilitator.

Rabbit—found a Baby Rabbit

Baby rabbits spend most of their time alone in the nest. Mother rabbits only visit nests at dawn and dusk. If you find a healthy baby rabbit and the nest is intact, place the baby back in the nest and cover with leaves or twigs. The nest is a shallow depression lined with fur. Call a wildlife rehabilitator if a rabbit is injured with bleeding, broken bones, puncture wounds, has been in a dog or cat’s mouth, looks thin and weak or has wrinkly baggy skin. Baby rabbits are old enough to live independently when they are 4 to 5” long, able to hop with eyes open and ears up.

Squirrel—found a Baby Squirrel

Baby squirrels get knocked to the ground in storms or when a tree falls or is cut. Some squirrels are injured while others are scared and dazed. All need to get back to their mom. If the squirrel seems uninjured and has a full coat of fur, place the squirrel as high as you can in the tree so it can return to its nest or be retrieved by its mom. Call wildlife rehabilitator if squirrel is injured, appears thin and weak or has wrinkly, baggy skin. If baby squirrel is pink and furless or can’t climb, try to reunite it with its mom. Put baby in a small open box at the tree’s base and give its mom a couple of hours to get it. Call a wildlife rehabilitator if the squirrel is still in the box at the day’s end. Keep cats and dogs away.

Virginia Opossum—found a Baby Opossum

Baby opossums spend two months in their mom’s pouch and the next two months close to her. They are dependent on their moms during this 4-month period. A baby opossum needs its mom if its less than 8” long from tip of nose to base of tail, weigh less than 7.25 ounces. Once the baby opossum is 8” long from tip of nose to the base of its tail, it is independent and can live on its own. Call a wildlife rehabilitator if the opossum is injured, appears thin and weak with baggy skin or if the mom isn’t nearby.

Turtle or Snake—found a Turtle or Snake

Turtles and snakes do not take care of their young. Turtles or snakes may need help if they are injured, emaciated, caught in a net or have been attacked by a dog or cat. Contact a wildlife rehabilitator.

Turtles crossing roads are at risk of injury or death by vehicles. A turtle crossing the road may be encouraged to move in the direction it is headed. Do not take it back to the direction from which it came. The turtle will simply head to its intended destination.

Some non-native reptile pets are dumped when their owners no longer want them. Red-eared sliders, iguanas or pythons are some of the exotic pets that some owners abandon. These animals do not belong in northeastern North American environments. If you find exotic animals or have one you cannot take care of, do not release it into the wild, a park or zoo. Contact a wildlife rehabilitator for guidance.

Canada Goose with Angel Wing
In Trailside’s care at Duck Pond
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