Helping Orphaned Wildlife

Wildlife Watch runs a "hotline" for wildlife that leads to the saving of scores of wild animals and helps to resolve human-animal conflicts. During "baby season" (late March through the summer), we get hundreds of calls from several New York counties, and we try to match callers with wildlife rehabilitators (rehabbers) who are nearby and specialize in the area of need. That’s not always possible, so…this article is designed to assist a lay person in helping wild, orphaned animals until a rehabber or wildlife vet can take over. 

The first tenet should be, "Do no harm," but that doesn’t mean to do nothing when there are simple remedies.

Many wildlife rehabilitators enhance traditional formulas and techniques to keep patients from dying. These formulas are the combined recipes of Ingrid Ilkiw and Marilyn Leybra. I visited Ingrid in June as she was preparing food for a variety of orphaned wild animals, and followed her through her feeding routine. The recipes here are simplified so that most people will be able to easily obtain the ingredients and supplies. This is provided as an aid in short-term care when a rehabber or wildlife veterinarian is not immediately available

First Things First

Birds and mammals respond well to heat. Use a covered hot water bottle, covered heat pad, or a plastic soda bottle filled with hot water. Wrap it in a thick, preferably fuzzy, sock. Put the heat source near the body for warmth and comfort. It's important to bring up the body temperature before starting to feed.


You will need to keep on hand: paper towels, tissues, a fuzzy sock, cages of various sizes, plastic syringes or eyedroppers, nipples including a cattak (long, thin nipple) to be put at the end of a plastic syringe, baby bottles, Exact (from a pet store), lactate (from a pharmacy), Nutrical (pet store), goat milk (health food store); baby food: beef, spinach, applesauce, baby cereal, baby rice, puppy chow and ripe bananas.

Most of these supplies can be kept a long time, so get them ready. Obviously, bananas will have to be bought fresh. If you buy goat milk in powdered form, you won’t have to worry about keeping it fresh.