Animal Related Questions
Most of our visitors have animal-related questions. If you'd like to learn more about WRC's history, view a staff and Board member list, please visit our About Us page.
I Found a Bat
If that bat is in your home and it's not winter, close any interior doors to the room, open the windows (and any exterior exiting doors) and the bat will eventually fly out. If it's not strong enough to fly and falls to the floor, the bat needs medical care. If it's in a room where someone has been sleeping or a small child/someone who cannot communicate has been in that room, the bat should go to the UMN Diagnostic Lab for testing. Rabies is carried by bats and there is no treatment for rabies. As much as we love bats, we're more concerned about the health of you and your family members. We cannot test at WRC that's why you should take the bat to the UMN DLab. Scroll down for a link and more information on the DLab.
If it's winter time, the bat has probably temporarily woken from its hibernation. Since there is no food source, the bat cannot be released outside and survive. We recommend carefully containing the bat in a plastic container (punch air holes in the lid first) and bringing it to the Center. Do not handle the bat. If needed, use a magazine to scoop up the bat or to slide it into the container. It's most likely moving sluggishly. Watch this video by the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) filmed at our center. It demonstrates how to safely capture a bat.
Please bring bats to us as soon as possible (ideally same day or within 24hrs). They have incredibly high metabolism and have already lost some of their fat stores during hibernation. A bat who wakes and flies during hibernation burns up 62% of its fat stores. Once this happens, the bat will not have enough energy or fat stores to sustain it through the rest of its hibernation.
NOTE: If you've had bare skin contact with a bat or found a bat in a bedroom where someone has been sleeping, or if any of your pets could have possibly have had contact with the bat, please take it to the UMN Diagnostic Lab (DLab) for rabies testing. The DLab is on the St. Paul Campus. There is more information here on the DLab. We do NOT test animals at WRC. Here's a video on how to safely contain the bat.
During the winter we'll have as many as 200+ bats in care at the center. We over-winter the bats, releasing them in the spring so they can return to their breeding/maternal roost areas.
We test select species of bats for White Nose Syndrome (WNS). As the fungus spreads across the nation, it's wiping out bat poulations. Every year we successfully treat and release a handful of WNS bats. The key to treatment is finding the bat before extensive frostbite or weight loss occurs. If found in time, we can successfully treat and release the bats. If you've found a bat in the snow in the winter or early spring, please bring it to us as soon as possible. Caring for the bats and testing for WNS is an expensive undertaking. We appreciate your financial support to help us treat these amazing animals.
A Bird Hit My Window. What Should I Do?
Window strikes are startling and traumatic to watch. But, oftentimes the bird is simply stunned and will fly away in as little as 15 minutes to as long as a couple hours. We recommend the following steps, to help you and the bird reduce stress and save time. We should note that if there is any blood, or an obviously broken wing that's limply hanging, bring the bird in right away.
- If the bird is near a low bush, pick the bird up and place it at the base of the bush.
- If it's cold outside or you're worried about feral cats, you may place the bird in a shoe box and put the shoe box in your garage or unused room. Be sure to close the door and keep the room quiet to help reduce stress on the already stressed bird.
- After one hour, take the shoe box outside and lift the lid. At this point, hopefully the bird will fly away. If not, the bird has either died from extreme internal injuries (which we could not have done anything to reverse) or it's evident that the bird has an injured wing, etc., at which point you should bring it into the Center.
We hope these steps will help save you time and stress.
For more information on bird strikes, and how to prevent them, we recommend visiting Cornell Lab of Ornithology's page.
I've Found An Animal. Do I Need to Call First?
If the animal you've found is obviously injured, please bring it to the Center immediately. If it's an orphan, please call us prior to bringing in the animal: 651-486-9453. Please, for the animal's sake, do not email or Facebook us with animal admission questions, we're not able to respond as quickly as we can via phone.
In the event that we are closed, please do not offer the animal any food or water. A vet should examine the animal first to make sure it will not further harm the animal. Place the animal in a pet carrier or secure box with air holes. We recommend keeping the contained animal in your garage (except during the winter months if you have an unheated garage), away from noise, pets and humans. This helps reduce the stress on an already stressed animal. You may place half the container on a heating pad set to low (no higher) if the animal is very young or cold and wet.
How Do I Follow up on an Animal I Brought to WRC?
We're glad you're interested in learning about the welfare of the animal you brought to us. Please wait three days prior to emailing us. This will give us a bit better idea of how the animal is initially responding. When you email us, please include the name under which the animal was admitted, date and species of animal (if known). During our busy season (May-Aug) we may take up to 7 business days to reply.
I'm seeing robins this winter. Why didn't they migrate?
Basically, there are migratory robins and "resident" robins: ones that do not migrate.
Scientists are studying the migratory robins and the resident robins (as the year-round ones are officially called) and finding that they really don't inter-breed much and are guessing that there may actually be some genetic differences.
Resident robins tend to travel in fairly large flocks: 40-50 birds and over-winter in ravines and other wooded areas where they have an open water source.
Robins will eat seed if needed, but they mainly survive in the winter on leftover fruit on trees: buckthorn berries, crab apples, cherries, mountain ash berries, etc. They'll eat suet if they can get to it.
Can Our Organization Tour WRC?
We are not open for tours per state regulations. All animals in the hospital are under medical or rehabilitative care, they are not educational animals. We recommend contacting your local nature center, The UMN Raptor Center or the Harriet Alexander Nature Center, located behind our building, for information on wildlife programs for children.
We do, however, offer powerpoints on how we care for more than 13,000 injured and orphaned wild animals. These are filled with animal photos and amazing facts and last approximately 40 minutes. To request a presentation either at WRC or at your facility, please contact Communications Director Tami Vogel. We ask that you make a minimum donation of $75 to the Center.
Why Don't You Name Your Patients?
Many times an animal is named by the people who have rescued it. We've had our fair share of "Chirpy," "Chippy," "Nuts" (most often squirrels) and even "Fred" over the years.
We understand that people grow attached to animals in their possession quickly and naming the animal is often a suggestion by the children who found the animal.
Here at the Center, we treat every wild animal as a wild animal with the goal of releasing it back to its wild home. By naming an animal, you create ownership of it and we feel it's not appropriate for our patients to be named. We're here to provide medical and rehabilitative care and then release the animal; not to bond with it or become even further attached to it.
We'll be honest: volunteers who work daily with a swan who is with us for 6 months while battling lead poisoning quickly become attached to it. Whether the swan lives or dies is an emotional experience for our volunteers. The animals in our care receive loving attention from our staff and volunteers even without being given a name.
Coyotes are Moving into my Neighborhood. Should I Worry?
Coyotes, like deer and other wildlife, are adjusting to humans being in their territory. Unlike deer, they are predators and you should take certain precautions - both for yourself and for the well-being of the coyotes.
- Don't leave your garbage in bags curbside overnight (helps keep down the raccoon, opossum and rat problems, too);
- Don't leave small dogs or cats out overnight (this is pursuant to Animal Humane Society recommnedations as well - it's just not healthy for your pet);
- If a coyote is frequenting your suburban yard, discourage it from becoming too comfortable by banging pots or pans when you see it;
- Don't leave cat or dog food out overnight for strays (again, this helps keep other rodents away as well);
- If you see a sick or injured coyote, please call the DNR at 651-296-6157.
I Found Orphaned Squirrels. What do I do?
Unfortunately for squirrels, tree trimming season seems to coincide with their birth cycle.
On the bright side: a female squirrel will often return to the site of the nest and move the young to another nest (they typically keep 3 nests). And, you may have actually found the squirrels as she's moving them to a new nest. She'll bring them all down to the base of the tree then individually move them to the new nest. It can be a long process.
So, here are some tips for various incidents:
If at all possible, avoid removing and trimming trees and limbs until the winter. However, if you cannot avoid it and find a nest of squirrels, leave them undisturbed and leave the area. Trust us: the mom has been carefully watching what you're doing and most likely will return for the litter after activity has died down. Even if it's a city crew and they're present most of the day, the female squirrel will probably come back for the squirrels in the evening.
Squirrels in Your Attic
Oftentimes people don't realize a squirrel, or raccoon for that matter, has taken up residency in their attic until they hear the young mewing.
First, locate the litter and then pinpoint how the animal is entering the home and make plans to close off the entry point.
Once you're gathered everything you need for this project, purchase and install a one-way animal door. These can be found at most hardware/home improvement stores and allow the animal to leave the premises, but not to re-enter.
You can then move the litter outside to a location close to the entry point, install the door, and hopefully the female will relocate her litter to another nest site.
As with anything else, animals are not predictable and these solutions may not always work. They are simply the best recommended steps to help wild animals stay in their natural habitat.
If the squirrels, raccoons or other litter are still there the following day, wait until noon and then bring them into the Center.
I Found an Orphaned Bunny or have a Nest of Bunnies in My Yard
Eastern Cottontail Rabbits will have as many as four litters a year, the earliest occuring in mid to late March. Thankfully, wild rabbits quickly grow and will leave the nest and find their own territory within 4 weeks.
The main thing to remember when you uncover a nest of bunnies is leave them be. For just a few weeks re-arrange your activities to give them a chance to grow and leave the area. Once they've left you can fill in the slight depression the mother digs for the nest.
Also remember that you most likely will not see the mother rabbit on the nest with the young kits. To protect the location of the nest, she avoids the area, coming back only to briefly nurse the young at dawn and dusk.
If you're worried about the young being abandoned, you may periodically check the nest over a couple days. Orphaned rabbits will quickly become dehydrated and lose weight, so by the second day, you'll notice a decline in their appearance. If, when checking the nest on the 2nd or 3rd day, you notice they are declining, please call our admit line at 651-486-9453.
If your dog or cat has disturbed the nest, please only bring in any bunnies who have been injured or have been in your cat's mouth. Leave the other bunnies to be raised naturally.
A Goose/Mallard has Laid Eggs and isn't Attending Them
Waterfowl will lay one egg at a time over a period of weeks. There may be a day or two in between each egg's appearance in the nest. The hen won't sit on the nest to incubate the eggs until the entire clutch is laid, which can be anywhere from 9-16 eggs. In the meantime, the eggs are not viable and unfortunately yes, they can freeze.
The eggs are protected so you cannot relocate the eggs or nest. Leave them where she's chosen to make the nest. As your activity changes with nicer weather, you may be out in your yard more, etc. This increased activity may cause her to abandon the nest but they generally adapt well to humans. Again, the eggs aren't viable until she begins incubating the entire clutch. Once she does begin incubating the eggs it's roughly 28 days (4 weeks) to hatch.
Within 24 hours of the ducklings/gosling hatching she'll move them to the nearest body of water, which could be a couple miles away. As hard as it is to watch them marching down your driveway, you cannot capture her and the ducklings and move them. (typically this results in everyone scattering and you ending up with orphaned goslings or ducklings)
If she does abandon the nest, leave the eggs where they are. They're federally protected and should not be moved or tampered with. Many animals are starting to have young at this time of year and these eggs provide a valuable source of nutrition for other animals.
If she wanders off with all the ducklings and one is left behind, please keep it very warm and quiet until you can bring it in. They are easily stressed and the stress of having people play with them can kill them. At this age they are not waterproofed and should not be given water in the fear that they might get wet (and then you're left with a cold, sad duckling).
We Want to Raise Baby "Wild" Ducks from our local feed store
The USFWS regulates the sale, gifting and otherwise distribution of all captive-reared "wild" ducks. Ducks must be marked appropriately, as outlined in the USFWS document, and if given to a friend, family member, etc., this must be reported to the USFWS.
We cannot accept these birds.
This can be an amazing experience for you and your children, but the ducks will need long-term care or you'll need to have a plan for placement of them. Please, for your family's sake and the ducklings', be sure you read through the USFWS requirements before undertaking this commitment.
Wild ducks, their eggs, nests and ducklings are protected under various state and federal laws. You cannot legally raise these animals. If you find an orphaned duckling or an injured one, please call us: 651-486-9453.
I Found a Baby Bird. Can I Put it Back in its Nest?
Baby birds leave the nest for a variety of reasons. Sometimes they're pushed out by the other nestlings, sometimes one of the parents will push a bird out, or the baby bird may be ready to leave the nest.
A baby bird that is featherless, or still has tiny fluffy downy feathers on it belongs in the nest. Carefully pick the bird up and place it back in the nest. Don't worry about your scent on the bird: a bird's sense of smell is not very developed and its primary instinct is to raise its young. Of course, if the bird continually pushes the same baby bird from the nest, please bring the bird in. It may be sick, it may be a bird that isn't one of theirs, such as a cowbird.
If the entire nest has fallen, you can try to put it back. If you're having trouble doing so, take a shallow plastic container (like a deli container), punch holes in the bottom of it for drainage, place the nest in the container and then bungee cord the new "nest" to the tree or branch.
If you cannot choose the original site, the location must be within 5' or the parents may not care for the birds.
When the parents continually push a baby bird from the nest, most likely there is something wrong with that bird and they've chosen not to care for it. You may bring the bird to the Center, no need to call first. We'll have our vets examine the bird and then admit it to our Avian Nursery.
A fledgling bird will leave the nest before it can fly. We know it's stressful to watch the baby robins running around in your yard - especially if you have feral cats in the neighborhood, but that's the way Nature works.
If you think about the size of the nest, and then the size of the fledglings, you'll realize they just don't have room to develop their flight feathers while staying in the nest.
It's typical for fledglings to hop around in the yard for 5-7 days prior to flying. Mom and Dad should be around with them, teaching them to hunt for food. Leave fledgling birds alone - they're healthy and doing quite well on their own.