Orphan Advice

PLEASE DO NOT give any animal anything to eat or drink unless advised to do so. and do not pick them up unless you are sure they need your help. Call us if you need advice.

Many creatures come in to us every year as orphans but try as we might, we humans will never be as good as their mother! This is why every year we ask people not to pick up young wildlife without thinking.

It is not always easy to decide when an animal or bird is in need of rescuing, neither is it as easy as ‘leave all babies alone', each case has to be considered carefully and a decision made.

If you think you have found an orphan it is worth bearing a few things in mind.


The female hedgehog will leave her young to find food, often if a nest of hoglets is found; it is assumed that if mum is not with them that they have been abandoned. This is not necessarily the case. If the hoglets seem content and sleeping, leave them alone and return later to check how they are doing. DO NOT TOUCH THEM before establishing they are in need of help as the mother will reject any babies with a human scent on them.

If they appear unsettled, are cold or are emitting a high-pitched sound, which indicates they are hungry, or the nest has clearly been destroyed then they will need to be picked up. If this is the case you will need to keep them very warm and contact a wildlife centre immediately. Do not attempt to feed them yourself.

To keep them warm you can wrap a hot water bottle in a towel or blanket and put it into a container of some kind. Then put another towel or blanket over the top of this which the hoglets can snuggle up in. Then cover them with part of the towel/blanket. Resist the urge to keep checking on them as this will allow the heat to escape and disturb them.

Badger Cubs

A badger cub out on its own in the day indicates a problem. Most cubs are seen at the rescue centre at around two months old, and this is when they first start to appear above ground in the wild. Until this time they are in the sett. If you see a fairly large cub out in the evening or at night and are worried about it, call a wildlife centre to discuss what you should do next.

Younger cubs may have come above ground if their mother has not returned. If a cub this young is found, the area should be searched for others and for an injured adult. Sometimes tiny cubs are found as a result of a collapsed or dug into sett. Even young cubs can bite so if you are going to pick them up please use a towel or gardening gloves.

If you do come across very young badger cubs that need help, they need to be kept warm whilst they are being transported to a wildlife centre. Wrapping them in blanket, towels or even jumpers can help do this. If you have a hot water bottle and a strong pet carrier or other container (Not cardboard) then you can place the hot water bottle wrapped in a towel at the bottle of the container, with a towel wrapped around the cubs and place them in the container as well.

Do not attempt to feed them anything and get them to a wildlife centre as soon as possible.

Fox Cubs

If a group of cubs are seen without the presence of an adult the situation should be monitored. A group of cubs that appear contented, asleep in a heap together or playing should be left alone and checked on later. If they are calling or appear to be in distress then something may well have happened to mum. Watch them for at least an hour before interfere as mum may return.

A good search around the area should be made to help with the decision. If the cubs are dispersed over the area rather than together, are cold, lethargic or wet then they should be picked up. Or if a lone cub is found, out in the open, calling or appears to be distressed, lethargic, wet or cold it should be picked up.

If a cub is found that still has its eyes closed then it is under two weeks old and at that age is not able to thermo regulate its body temperature and will soon become cold and eventually die. Before interfering watch the cub for at an hour unless it has obviously been there for a while already (i.e. soaking wet, shivering.) as mum may be moving cubs to another den.

Rabbit Kittens

Rabbits are born underground blind, deaf and without fur, so if very young ones are seen above ground there is a problem. JCB diggers and dogs often dig up baby rabbits, and the nests are destroyed. If rabbits are found with their eyes closed or without fur and above ground they definitely need help. If you are unsure, please phone a wildlife centre.

Rabbits are weaned at a young age and often are picked up as tiny bunnies, when really they are independent and able to care for themselves. Mum can be pregnant again 12 hours after she gives birth and so the young rabbit kittens are weaned before the next litter is born and so are independent at a young age. So before picking up a bunny, call a wildlife rescue centre to ensure they actually need help.

Hares (Leverets)

Hares are completely different and are born fully furred, eyes and ears open and sit in their forms above ground. This is often when they are mistakenly picked up as orphans, mum will leave them all day returning only once in 24 hours to feed them. Unless they appear weak, injured or are wet and cold, they should be left alone.


Tiny bats sometimes fall from their roosts and where it is not possible to return them, they have to be hand reared. Many young bats that are bought in to the centre are victims of cats and their original roost is unknown.


Deer can be tricky to hand rear, more labour intensive than any other orphaned mammal at least in the early days and not in the least impressed with having a human mother.

Doe's leave their young for long periods of time usually in long grass or areas of good cover, often these babies are assumed to be orphaned and are picked up. The doe will be close by and will not return to her youngster whilst the human is present, it should be left alone and checked on at a later, unless it is obviously sick or badly injured.

If you do find the mother does return and the baby is still there after an hour or two, the young deer should be transported in a pet carrier or box lined with warm blankets or towels and kept as quiet as possible.