Overnight care of orphaned mammals
- Safe environment — Place the animal(s) in a small cardboard box or plastic carrier with plenty of small air holes for ventilation. Use soft bedding such as towels, old t-shirts, or paper towels. Do not use grass clippings or wood chips/shaving. Keep the box in a quiet, dark area away from pets and people. Handle the animal as little as possible — even young wild animals get stressed by captivity and over handling.
- Provide a heat source — Infant mammals cannot regulate their own body temperatures adequately and are susceptible to hypothermia. Place a heating pad set to LOW under half of the box. If you do not have a heating pad you can fill a bottle with hot water, cover it with a barrier (towel) and place it inside the box. Water bottles will need to be checked frequently for loss of heat over time. It is important for the animal to be able to move close to or away from the heat source.
- We prefer animals to be assessed by a wildlife professional first before any oral fluids are offered but we understand this recommendation is difficult to follow. If you are going to feed the animal, it is vitally important to offer ONLY rehydration fluids (water, Pediatlyte, Gatorade) and NOT milk, formula, or other home-made recipes of any kind. It is very important the animal is rehydrated first before complex nutrients are added into their diet for medical reasons. Switching from mother’s milk to other formulas too quickly can cause diarrhea or other complications that decrease the animals’ chance for successful rehabilitation. In infants the risk of aspiration (getting fluid into the lungs) is very high and we recommend only attempting to feed an animal if you have a small 1cc or less syringe (no needle) or eyedropper. Only one drop at a time should be offered and the animal must be warm before feeding — the body cannot function properly in a state of hypothermia. A small bottle with nipple can be used for raccoons and fawns. All liquids should also be warmed before feeding.
- Get the animal to a licensed wildlife rehabilitator or facility as soon as possible in the morning. It is against the law and not in the animal’s best interest to keep or raise wildlife without the proper permits and education.
- Always wear gloves and wash hands thoroughly after handling a wild animal. Wild animals can carry parasites that can also infect humans. Raccoons commonly carry an intestinal roundworm, baylisascaris, which can be very harmful to humans.