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Here are some resources when considering caring for wildlife.

Remember, it is illegal to keep wildlife as pets in Michigan.

Finding Wildlife

Leave it alone if at all possible

  • Determine if the animal or bird is injured or orphaned.
  • If it is injured, keep it quiet and warm and seek professional help as soon as possible.
  • If it is orphaned, leave it in place through the day - very few animals are truly orphans.
  • When handling wildlife, use towels or heavy gloves.
  • For birds, throw a towel over them and grasp the wings at the shoulders to prevent injury and hold the head from behind.
  • With mammals, there is a greater danger of getting bitten, so try to coax them into a box.
  • Then take the animal to a veterinarian for examination and medical care.

Feeding and Care

You must have a permit to keep wildlife under any circumstances

  • First identify the animal - this is important, because different species requires different types of food.  Any good identification book will help, also try google images or wikipedia.
  • Have food and fresh water always available (birds also need water for bathing and preening).
  • Determine the approximate age by looking at the presence of fur and whether or not the eyes and ears are open.  Determining the age will tell you whether or not you will have to hand feed the animal.

Feeding Birds

For birds with out feathers or that have baby spots

  • Feed cat chow mixed with water and baby food egg yolks using tweezers or forceps.
  • Feed every two to three hours, or when they gape for food (every fifteen minutes with the tiny ones).
  • Continue throughout the daylight hours only.
  • Be careful not to injure their mouth.
  • Keep the food in the refrigerator to prevent spoiling and have a jar lid of water available.
  • As the birds get feathers, consult your nature center for specific diets for the species.

Feeding Rabbits


  • 1 part powdered formula (Unilact, Esbilac)
  • 3 parts warm water
  • 2 parts heavy cream
  • Feed with an eye dropper, syringe or nursing bottle


  • If the eyes are closed, feed every two to three hours
  • If the eyes are open, feed every six to seven hours
  • Remember that rabbits frighten easily and they are harder to handle.

Natural Diet:

  • Dandelion greens, Queen Anne's Lace, wild carrot tops, clover, apples.

Feeding Squirrels


  • 1 part powdered formula (Unilact, Esbilac)
  • 3 parts warm water
  • If the babies suck too fast, add a small amount of baby cereal to thicken the milk so the formula won't come out their nose.
  • Feed with an eye dropper, syringe or nursing bottle


  • Feed newborns 2 cc's of formula every two to four hours with one night feeding
  • If the eyes are closed and the babies have fur, feed 6 cc's of formula every four hours with no night feeding. 
  • If the eyes are open, feed 9-12 cc's every four to five hours with no night feeding.

Natural Diet:

  • Acorns, beechnuts, hickory nuts, walnuts, corn, soybeans, buds of Elm, Maple and Oak, newly sprouted leaves, insect larvae and insects, berries, fruit pits, grain, tree bark, mushrooms and soil.


Handle as little as possible


  • Make a clean nest using paper towels or Kleenex.  Don't use anything that the birds could get tangled in (towels, cotton balls) and clean the nest at least twice daily.  Do not use the original nest and do not make the nest too big.
  • Keep the birds warm, since they can not maintain their body heat for the first few weeks.  Use a heating pad set on low under five towels or use a light held at least eighteen inches away.  Turn off the light during the night, but continue to give heat through the heating pad.


  • Make a dark nesting box with flannel or fleece to hide in.  Avoid using anything that can tangle the babies.
  • Use a deep box, because some animals can jump very high and can startle easily.
  • Clean the box twice daily.
  • Use a heating pad under the box, as there is danger of chewing if the pad is placed in the box.

Releasing Wildlife

Consult with your nature center on the best way


  • Do not just let the birds go.
  • When the birds can fly well, release and feed on top of a high, safe place, like a shed.  Cats and other predators can find these babies easily, so you must protect them.
  • Feed the same food at that location every two hours (don't be late, they will be waiting for you) for two weeks during the daylight, then space it out to three hours.  By this time, they should be eating on their own.
  • If you are not available for a feeding, you must find someone to do it for you.


  • When completely independent of formula, put in an outdoor pen.  Use small gauge wire mesh, because they can crawl through very small openings.  
  • Try putting them out just during the day and then later at night when it isn't too chilly.
  • Have a nesting box within this cage to shelter them from the weather.
  • Make sure that food and water are always available.
  • After one to two weeks, release in a location where there are plenty of grazing areas plus wooded areas for shelter and away from dogs, cats and humans.
  • Don't keep rabbits over five weeks - they don't do well in captivity.  The white spot on their head is a good indicator of release age.  When the spot is gone, they should be on their own.
  • Check the weather forecast before releasing and make sure that you have a good stretch of good weather before letting them go.


  • Skunks are a major carriers of rabies, so do not handle them.  All animals are susceptible to this disease, so keep your pets away and make sure they are up to date on their vaccinations.
  • Maintain good hygiene, for both your health and the animals health.  Do not wash an orphaned animal's food dishes with your own, to avoid possible salmonella contaminations.
  • Be sure you are up to date on your tetanus shot.

Permits Required

There are federal, state and sometimes county regulations governing the possession of certain species.  Contact your local conservation officer with the DNR.

Wild Animal Rehabilitation Permit

  • Available from the State of Michigan through the State of Michigan.  It is required of anyone keeping an animal for rehabilitation (which means returning it to the wild).

Special Use Permit for Rehabilitation

  • Available from the US Department of the Interior, for the possession of migratory birds for rehabilitation.

No one may keep a wild animal as a pet!


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