Hiram College

If you see a baby bird, rabbit or other mammal alone outdoors, do not assume it’s an orphan. Mom and dad could be nearby, but out of sight, says Sarah Mabey, Ph.D., assistant professor of environmental studies at Hiram.

“Often times, wild parents – birds and mammals – will leave their young in a safe place, especially when the young are quite small, to go off to forage and then come back to feed their young,” says Dr. Mabey, explaining that cottontail rabbits and white-tailed deer, for instance, leave their offspring unattended for several hours. “They may be nearby, but they are not right with them. Their strategy is to leave the vulnerable baby somewhere safe. The baby just sits there quiet, not moving.”

If you spot newborn mammals, such as bunnies, in the same location over the course of several days, however, they may be orphans. Cover them with a laundry basket during the day and remove it at sundown so their parents – if nearby – can feed them at night, Dr. Mabey advises.

Adult wood ducks nest high up in trees. When their young are ready to leave the nest they jump to the forest floor. However, some land prematurely due to a broken nest. Nesting material scattered on the ground is a giveaway to the damaged home above. Dr. Mabey suggests placing the nesting materials in a plastic dish or bowl, such as a small Tupperware container, with drainage holes and then tying the makeshift nest where the original one was located. Place the babies into the newly crafted nest, wash hands thoroughly (Adult birds will not shy away from your human scent.) and the parents should return to their offspring in no time.

“Never try to raise wildlife on your own, for the good of the animals as well as the health of and safety of the people,” Dr. Mabey says.

Birds are protected by federal law under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and jeopardizing the health and well-being of a native bird is a federal, according to Dr. Mabey. If you see a bird that may be injured, contact the College’s James H. Barrow Biological Field Station at 330-527-2141 or Penitentiary Glenn at 440-256-1404. Both facilities rehabilitate birds and later release them to their natural habitats.

“It’s worth it … releasing those baby ducks, when they go into the world … and hopefully thrive,” says Hiram student Halle Hovance ’20, who is serving as the field station’s student manager this summer.