by Debra Spilar
Baby season will soon be upon us….so I wanted to mention about Capture Myopathy and Feeding Babies.
Wild animals— particularly rabbits, fawns, and birds— are prone to a condition called Capture Myopathy. This is a complex disorder that results from the stress of being chased, captured, or even simply held by a human being. Although there are usually no signs of disease or injury, these animals simply die.
People who find cottontail rabbit babies often describe them as calm, comfortable, friendly, and sweet. All too often, wildlife rehabilitators receive photos of baby rabbits snuggled in hands, pockets, and bras, with enthusiastic stories about how much they love to be held. These stories almost always end in tragedy, when the babies die of stress.
Animals don’t always communicate that they’re upset in the same way we do. Prey animals like rabbits and deer don’t usually show fear by screaming or crying or biting, but by simply freezing in place and hoping to be left alone. This is easily mistaken for calmness by well-meaning people.
Please: never capture or handle an animal unless instructed to do so by a wildlife rehabilitator. Otherwise, you run the very real risk of killing an animal that you intended to save.
Do you know why we ask you NEVER to feed any animal you find? Here are the top 5 reasons:
1. If a baby is too cold, feeding it will kill the baby.
2. If a baby is dehydrated, feeding it will kill the baby.
3. Small babies aspirate VERY easily if you have not been trained to feed them. If they aspirate especially multiple times, they can develop pneumonia and kill the baby.
4. Each baby has a specific diet/formula and only a specific amount based on their weight per feed. This is especially bad when people unknowingly give inappropriate food— like cow’s milk, goat’s milk, or human breast milk to orphans. Levels of fat, lactose, and protein in milk vary so much by species that it can be a huge shock to a baby’s system when given the wrong thing. Too much or the wrong kind can kill the baby.
5. Even the best intentions can kill the baby, so please DO NOT feed them when you find them.
The best thing you can do to help an animal is to contact Procyon Wildlife (leave a message if we don’t answer) and we will call you back. A few hours without food at this point will not hurt the baby. If it’s a small baby or an injured baby wear gloves and put it in a box with a towel or a blanket (unless it’s a porcupine, then use newspaper and a plastic tote). Then fill a water bottle with hot water and put it under the towel, close to the baby, taking care not to burn, squish or hurt the baby. Keep the baby somewhere safe until you hear from Procyon Wildlife 905-729-0033