Reuniting a Mother With Her Baby

Give the mother a chance to come back for her baby!

A baby’s best chance in life is ALWAYS to stay with its mother. It is very important to give the mother every opportunity to find and continue to care for her babies. If the baby seems healthy, it should be left out for the remainder of the day (one full night for raccoons- because this is when they are most active) for the mother to claim. You’ve probably heard that if you touch a baby , their mother will smell your scent and reject it – but this just isn’t true! Raccoons are excellent mothers, and will come back for their babies even if they accidentally become separated.

  Steps to reuniting a baby with its mother   

Step 1: Contain the baby   

  • Baby squirrel in box For baby squirrels choose a cardboard box, tall enough so the baby can’t climb out. Wear heavy gardening gloves just in case. If the baby squirrel is quiet enough, scoop it up with a towel and place the baby with the towel in the box. (Towel is to keep it warm). Place the box as close as possible where you found the baby squirrel. In heavy rain place a plastic bin on its side then place the box inside. If the baby was found in a high-traffic area, put a sign on the box letting people know that the baby is being left out for its mother and requesting that it be left alone. Mark on the sign when you will be returning to check on the baby.

  • If the baby is bigger and growling or trying to get away, (Like a baby Racoon) place a laundry basket upside-down over the animal. Then weigh the basket down with a small brick or rock so it can’t get out, but the mother should be able to flip the basket over to retrieve her baby.

  • For baby rabbits mother only visit their young a few times a day to feed them (mostly at dawn), to know if the mother returns to the nest place two pieces of string in an X formation over the nest (X is in the middle of the nest). Don't place anything over the nest for shelter (stick, branches, etc) because mother rabbits gets stressed easily. If the mother rabbit has come back she would of disturbed the nest and the X pattern. Great! That means the babies are being looked after. If the nest has NOT been disturbed then it more then likely that the babies or orphaned. Call a Wildlife Rehabilitator.

Step 2: Give the baby a heat source

  • All Baby wildlife succumb to hypothermia easily, especially in early spring when night time temperatures are still chilly. The cold can easily kill small babies, and a mother may not retrieve cold, inactive young. For young babies, a heat source is crucial even on warm nights.

  • Heating pad set on LOW placed under half of the box, so it can remove its self if it gets too hot.

  • Or you can use whats called ‘Hot Paws’ or similar, placed under the towel in the box with the baby.

  • Or fill a plastic bottle with hot tap water placed in the box, but the hot water will need to be replaced frequently as it cools.

  • Babies bigger than a football, a heat source may not be necessary unless nighttime temperatures are very cool.

Step 3: Check to see if the mother has retrieved her baby.

  • Baby wildlife should be left out for one full day (all night for racoons, since their mothers are most likely to retrieve them when it is dark and there are fewer people around). Stay far away from the box so as not to scare the mother. With any luck, the mother will return and take her baby back! Remember that mothers can only carry one baby at a time, so it’s normal for the babies to disappear from the box one by one.

Why you shouldn’t feed an orphaned baby.

When a baby is hungry, it cries – these cries will alert their mother to the baby’s location if she is looking for it, so it’s better for a baby to be hungry while trying to reunite.

What can go wrong if you feed a baby wildlife

Baby animals, who are at a suckling stage, can easily inhale food or liquid into their lungs, a situation that can quickly lead to pneumonia and possible death.

If the baby raccoon is dehydrated, emaciated, hypothermic, or suffering from trauma, it won’t be physically able to digest food. If you feed it anyway, it could bloat or go into shock – both of which can cause death.

Bread or cow’s milk are NOT a normal part of a baby diet and can cause serious digestive problems, causing death.

Call wildlife Rehabilitator before offering ANY food or water to a baby wildlife.

If all has fails to reunite the baby animal with its mother then CALL a wildlife rehabilitator (click HERE to locate one in your area) and leave a message if you have to. Most will call you back within a few hours (or the next morning), they can instruct you where to bring the baby animal.

****In the meantime, keep the baby in a warm, dark, and quiet place

until you hand it over to a Wildlife Rehabilitator.***

***This is the most important thing you can do to help it!***