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Young animals

Never try to raise young animals yourself. Usually, this results in a big disappointment for you and the death of the animal.
Young animals often look helpless or abandoned, but the parents are usually around. People often wrongly presume too soon that an animal needs their help. However, you have to give young animals the chance to learn to walk or fly by themselves. If you still have any doubt, we will gladly give you some advice when young animals really need your help.


No matter what kind of young animals it is about, there’s one golden rule: never try to raise them yourself! This usually results in a big disappointment, for you as well as for the animal. There is no wild animal in the world that will survive on cow milk. This is only suitable for calves. When young animals arrive at our shelter, we administer them especially compounded milk, adapted to each species. It is vital for young animals to grow up among its own sort. If an animal grows up alone, it will recognize people as its own sort and it will be very difficult to release it back into the wild. In the Natuurhulpcentrum animals can grow up together and see each other as congeners which gives them a much better chance of survival after their release into the wild.

When do young animals need your help?


1. Birds

When you find a young “helpless” bird in the woods or in your garden, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it really is that helpless. For instance, the young of breeding birds in open nests (blackbirds, thrushes, collared doves, wood pigeons,...) generally leave the nest too soon. They gradually learn to fly, from branch to branch, while the parents stay nearby. It is best to leave the young alone. However, if the young finds itself in a perilous position (e.g. on the street) or is too young to be able to take care of its own safety and food provision (incomplete plumage, no tail, still downy,...) look for the nest and gently place the little one back in it. The parents won’t reject it as it is the case with mammals.

When do you have to bring a young bird to the Natuurhulpcentrum?

  • It the young is injured
  • If it is completely soaked
  • If the nest is broken in such a way it cannot be recuperated anymore
  • If you presume both parents are dead or the young has not been fed for a couple of days

2. Squirrels

When there is a heavy storm or when trees are being chopped down, it tends to happen that a nest with young squirrels gets damaged or destroyed. When you find such a nest on the ground, it is best to bring the young to us as soon as possible. You don’t have to bring the nest itself, but it is important to make sure the animals are kept warm (e.g. in a towel). Do not in any case feed young squirrels milk, never try to feed them yourself! Sick or weakened animals can also be brought to us.

3. Wild rabbits and hares

Dogs tend to dig out rabbit nests, that is why you can sometimes find one. If the animals are no larger than a grown fist, it’s best to bring them to us. It is very important to keep them warm (e.g. in a towel) and particularly not to feed them, and certainly not to give them any milk. Contrary to rabbits, hares are born on the open field, with a full coat and open eyes. If you find a young hare on your walk through the fields, it’s best to leave it alone. Young hares are only fed once or twice daily by their mother, and outside these feeding times the mother stays away from the young, to avoid attracting predators.

4. Deer

One has to be careful with young deer. Usually there isn’t anything wrong if you see a fawn lying in the grass on your walk. Just like the young hares, the fawns are only fed a couple a times a day by the mother and she stays away from her young outside these feeding times in order to avoid attracting predators. Do not in any case touch the young, because once you have done this, it will be rejected by its mother and eventually starve to death. Only if a deer is injured (e.g. hit by a car) or finds itself in a perilous situation (e.g. fallen into the canal), it is best to contact us as soon as possible. Never try to treat the animal yourself and always keep your distance from it. Avoid noise and light. Deer are very sensitive to stress and can die of fear. If you see a fawn running around crying, there is usually something wrong. It is hungry and calls for its mother that might be hit by a car or has disappeared for some reason or other. Don’t try to catch it yourself but contact us immediately.

5. Hedgehogs

When the nest is disturbed (e.g. while cleaning a barn) it is best to bring it to us. Also when you find a hedgehog that is smaller than a fist you should bring it to the Natuurhulpcentrum. Here again, the same rules apply: keep warm and don’t give any milk! Sick young hedgehogs (e.g. waddling animals) are also best brought to us as soon as possible.

6. Foxes

Never touch a wild fox! It could be infected with the fox tapeworm which is also contagious for humans. Nevertheless, if you have touched a fox, wash your hands and clothes as soon as possible. Young foxes usually don’t leave their hole. If you were to encounter a sick or injured one, contact us as soon as possible. Remember that a fox is a very shy animal that can bite easily, so keep your distance!

7. Stone martens and polecats

If you hear a lot of noise and screaming coming from your attic, you can be sure that you are lodging a nest of stone martens. In that case it’s best to contact us. And here again: keep the animals warm and don’t give them any milk.


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