Quick guide to finding a baby animal: Part II

People are generally so kind-hearted when it comes to baby animals.

You might see a group of ducklings walking around without an adult and just want to help them, out of the goodness of your heart.

We love that people want to help animals, but often the best thing to do is leave wildlife alone.

But how do you know? How can you tell when to step in and when to leave wildlife wild? Here are some quick tips about Iowa baby animals and when they do or don’t need our help.

ducklings in the grass

1. Ducklings

Ducklings do need their mothers, but don’t immediately think that a long duckling or clutch has been orphaned. The mother is usually close by and will likely return.

If after two or more hours, the mother has not returned, or if you see a dead duck nearby, it’s safe to catch and handle the ducklings.

Wearing gloves, gently pick up the ducklings and place them in a ventilated and warm box with high sides or a ventilated lid. Ducklings can jump higher than you might think.

Contact a wildlife rehabilitator if you have ducklings, because the goal is to release them into the wild. They imprint quickly, so do not handle them more than necessary.

Ducklings also get cold very quickly. Place them in a warm space with a heat lamp or a warm, hot water bottle. Give a water dish large enough to drink from but not large enough to swim in, because ducklings have no waterproof feathers. They can catch hypothermia if they become saturated.

Finally, while waiting for a wildlife rehabilitator, do not give bread or human food. If desperate, ducklings can be fed duck or chick starter mix from a hardware store.

2. Goslings

The rules for goslings are similar to ducklings. Before approaching what may be an orphaned, abandoned or lost gosling, give the mother time to return.

If the gosling is young enough to still have fuzzy feathers — a gosling old enough to have feathers may be old enough to be on its own — then follow the same steps as a duckling to gather it and care for it while waiting for a wildlife rehabilitator.

Some sites may saw that goslings can be introduced to a new family, but sometimes ducks or geese will not take in a stray and may kill it. Let any introduction be up to a trained rehabilitator.

But how do you know? How can you tell when to step in and when to leave wildlife wild? Here are some quick tips about Iowa baby animals and when they do or don’t need our help.

3. Poults

Turkey chicks are called poults, and they can sometimes get separated from their parents or abandoned or orphaned like other fowl. So follow similar steps as above. Mother hens may fly off from a nest if they see predators, trying to draw predators away from their babies. Give a mother plenty of time to come back for her chicks.

Using gloves, you can gently gather turkey poults up if the mother hasn’t returned, and they will continue to call for her. You may want to walk around the area with them to see if you can spot the mother. If you see her, release the poults and back away, letting her come to them.

If you can’t find a mother, care for chicks as above and call a wildlife rehabilitator. He or she may be able to find a surrogate mother or will raise the chicks to be released into the wild.

Like ducklings, poults imprint easily, so only handle when necessary.

A general rule, if any baby animal is visibly injured or you know for certain its mother is dead, call a wildlife rehabilitator. If not, its mother is most likely close by or it is old enough to be on its own. People have such kind hearts and want to help, but we have to sometimes let wild be wild.

(Read what to do with baby bunnies, fawns, skunks and more here)