Babies Alone

At the early stages of life, most baby mammals are left alone for several hours at a time while their mothers hunt or forage for food. Porcupines and beavers are an exception, however, and should never be without their parents. 

Babies and Dens

Many mammals spend time in a den as babies.

Babies Found Inside a Den

If you come across babies in a den, they should be sitting or sleeping quietly, all huddled together.

To determine if they are in need of help, look for any of the following:

  • babies are covered in mites, fleas, or ticks
  • babies are shivering and/or crying
  • babies appear lethargic or lifeless, or one or more have died
  • babies dispersed away from each other
  • mother suspected or confirmed dead

Babies Found Outside a Den

There are many reasons why a baby might be found outside its den. For example, sometimes during the process of moving her young to a new location, a mother might drop her baby to run off and distract a predator.

If you know the location of the den, and the babies appear healthy, return them to the den.

If the location of the den is unknown, place the babies in a container along with a heat source (like a hot water bottle wrapped in a towel); the container should be one that they can't get out of, but low-sided enough that the mother can access them. Leave the container there for an hour. If the mother does not retreive the baby/babies within that time, please call our wildlife helpline at (902) 407-9453. We will take into consideration the age and species of the baby/babies, as well as the weather and time of day, to determine next steps.

Babies Found Without a Den

Dens are often disturbed or even destroyed when construction or landscaping takes place, or when vehicles or camper trailers are moved after being stationary for a time. In many cases, a mother's immediate reaction is to flee; however, given the chance, she will typically return to retrieve her young.

If you find babies alone with no den around, place them in a container along with a heat source (like a hot water bottle wrapped in a towel); the container should be one that they can't get out of, but low-sided enough that the mother can access them. Leave the container there for an hour. If the mother does not retreive the baby/babies within that time, please call our wildlife helpline at (902) 407-9453. We will take into consideration the age and species of the baby/babies, as well as the weather and time of day, to determine next steps.

Specific Babies

Hope for Wildlife receives calls about some babies more than others. Please see below for information about specific babies and how to identify if they are in need of help or not.

Fawns

A fawn found all alone does not necessarily need help. Mothers (does) leave their young alone between feedings, hidden in grass or shrubs, which helps keep them safe.

The scent glands of a fawn are not yet developed, so by only visiting a fawn to feed it, a mother avoids leaving her own scent and giving away the location of her young to nearby threats.

A healthy fawn should be laying quietly with no visible wounds or injuries; its eyes should be bright and its ears standing erect. It should be left where it is, and the area should be avoided and pets kept away. A mother will not return to feed her fawn if she perceives possible danger.

In suburban areas, a mother will often leave her fawn in a backyard during the quiet morning hours, returning later to find a busy neighbourhood full of people, pets, vehicle, lawnmowers, and so on. As a result, she might wait until the area is quiet again, which may not be until the nighttime. This means the fawn may be alone for 12-16 hours, and in most cases, this is okay - its mother will move the fawn to a better location overnight.

To determine if a fawn alone is in need of help, look for any of the following:

  • wandering and/or crying
  • visible injury
  • shivering or lethargic
  • dead mother found nearby

If you are concerned about a fawn that has been in the same area for more than 12 hours, or has been left exposed to bad weather, please contact our wildlife helpline at (902) 407-9453.

Porcupines and Beavers

Baby porcupines and beavers should never be without an adult. If you find a baby porcupine or beaver alone, or if it was brought home by your dog but is uninjured, search the area for the mother.

If the mother can be found, place the baby nearby and watch from a distance to ensure that the baby stays with the mother.

If the mother is not located within 30 minutes (or if it is known the mother is dead), the baby should be brought to a Hope for Wildlife drop-off location.

Seals

Baby seals are born on land or sea ice, and their mothers leave them there while they return to the water; periodically, they will return to feed their pups. During mild winters, it is even more common to see young seals on the beach due to a lack of sea ice.

To determine if a seal pup is in need of help, look for any of the following:

  • open wounds, bleeding, or obvious injuries
  • entanglement
  • discharge from eyes or nose
  • rolls of skin (young seals should be very fat; if there are rolls in the skin it indicates that they are thin
  • mother suspected or confirmed dead

Snowshoe Hares

"I found a baby bunny" is a call received regularly at Hope for Wildlife. What many people don't know is that the only wild "bunnies" in Nova Scotia are snowshoe hares. Snowshoe hares are precocial, meaning they are born fully furred with their eyes open, and it is normal to find them without their mother.

A hare den is simply a shallow depression in the ground, lined with fur and and covered with grass, so finding a group of babies when landscaping is common. A female hare (doe) has two to five babies (leverets) per litter, and the babies stay in the den while she returns to feed them only a few times per day. As a result, it is normal to find babies without the mother present and they become independent at quite a young age. As a general rule, if a hare is longer than a standard pencil, it is probably old enough to be on its own.

To determine if a baby snowshoe hare is in need of help, look for any of the following:

  • it is visibly wounded
  • it was in a cat's mouth
  • it was removed from its den and the den cannot be located

To determine if a den of baby snowshoe hares is in need of help, look for any of the following:

  • babies are covered in mites, fleas, or ticks
  • babies appear lethargic or lifeless, or one or more have died

If the den has clearly been attacked by a cat or other predator, but the babies are not injured, return the young to the den, cover it back over with grasses, and check on it at 8-hour intervals for signs that the mother has returned (the grass that was placed should be disturbed and the babies are resting peacefully).