With the arrival of spring breeding season, Willowbrook Wildlife Center reminds residents it's normal for wild animals to leave their young alone for several hours at a time while they look for food. Human intervention may be helpful, though, if an animal is injured or truly abandoned.
Willowbrook Wildlife Center's animal admittance area closes at 6 p.m.
If you have an injured or orphaned animal, call 630-942-6200 before dropping it off at Willowbrook. If you arrive and the Willowbrook admittance gate is closed, please return home and follow the instructions below until admissions reopens tomorrow at 8:30 a.m. Recorded messages at 630-942-6200 offer more detailed information after normal business hours.
Do not leave your rescued animal at Willowbrook. It may not survive the night. Cool temperatures or mild winds can cause hypothermia in babies and debilitated adults. Rain can fill the container, drowning the animal, and hungry, undeterred predators will find their way to what’s inside.
After-Hours Care Information
- At home, place the animal in a secure container with good air flow. Shoe boxes, pet carriers, Rubbermaid containers or cardboard boxes work well. Securely fasten the lid with duct tape.
• For baby birds, line the bottom of the container with a towel to absorb
waste products and provide secure footing and insulation. Add a plastic
cup with tissue as an artificial nest for songbirds or raptors.
• For baby mammals, place a towel inside the container so the animals
have a place to hide.
• For adult animals, line the bottom of the container with a towel to absorb waste products, and cover the container with a large towel for darkness.
- Provide supplemental heat for baby animals, whose parents keep them above 90° F. Set a heating pad on low and place it under half the container. You can also fill a water bottle or sturdy zip-top plastic bag with warm water. Wrap the bottle or bag in a light cloth, and place it inside the box. Make sure it doesn’t leak, though, and can’t roll onto the animal.
- Keep the container in a quiet, dark, warm, dry location away from people and pets.
- Do not give the animal anything to eat or drink. It can choke or swallow improperly, leading to aspiration pneumonia. Babies are only fed by their parents, and adults, which don’t eat when scared, can be dangerous to approach. Most wild animals will not drink water from a cup, and leaving water bowls with a young or debilitated animal could result in drowning or a drop in body temperature.
- Do not peek at, talk to or interact with the animal in any way.
Adult wild animals view humans as predators and are easily stressed by human contact. They’re not comforted by our presence or voices. What seems like a subdued — even friendly — animal can recover quickly and become dangerous when cornered in a box.
Additionally, baby ducks, geese, crows, raptors and some songbirds easily become imprinted on humans when exposed to our voices and appearance. Imprinted wild animals end up confused about their identities and cannot be released once grown. Sadly, imprinting frequently ends in euthanasia.
Wild animals of all ages and species can carry diseases that can infect people and
pets. Wash your hands well after handling a wild animal, and thoroughly clean and
bleach any containers you wish to reuse. Do not allow pets near any wild animal.
It’s illegal to keep wild animals for more than 24 hours. They have special nutritional, housing and handling needs, and inexperienced individuals who try to raise or treat them inevitably produce unhealthy, tame animals that can’t survive in the wild. If you are unable to return to Willowbrook tomorrow, please call us between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. at 630-942-6200, and we’ll help you find a licensed wildlife rehabilitator near you.