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You Found a Cute Baby Animal, but What's Next?

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - Scott Fenn of Hiawatha discovered a baby raccoon while rock climbing over the weekend. Fenn said Saturday the raccoon was small, alone, and appeared to be abandoned. Fearing for the animal’s life, he made the decision to take it home.

Fenn named him Bandit, and quickly found Gayla Myers in Anamosa, who took him in.

“This one was obviously in trouble, and it was crying,” said Myers, holding bandit in a blanket in her home on Monday. “It was dehydrated and you could tell it needed help.”

Bandit is now with other baby raccoons - and a fawn named Luke - under Myers’ care.

“I’m licensed through the DNR as a wildlife rehabilitator,” Myers explained. With that status, Myers is one of dozens of volunteers around the state who can legally possess and care for wild animals, except for birds of prey.

Joe Wilkinson with the Iowa DNR said people like Myers provide a valuable service for state wildlife.

“The rehabbers will feed them, maybe nurse them back to health if they’re injured, but most importantly they teach them to stay wild,” Wilkinson said.

The job isn’t easy, either, with keeping the animals clean and bottle feedings day and night.

“Baby animals are up every hour or two; a lot of them are nocturnal,” Wilkinson told us. “So if you have a raccoon or a deer, they’re going to be active at night, because their parents are active at night.”

Wilkinson said if you should encounter a wild baby animal, it may not be abandoned, even if it’s all by itself. He said you should first consider leaving it alone, and resist the allure of handling it.

“The best rule of thumb is to just leave it alone, because mom - or mom and dad - will be back in a little bit,” Wilkinson explained.

That rule is especially true for fawns like Luke, as Myers explained. “Mom parks them in the morning, and then she goes off and forages and tells them to stay put. And then she comes back at dusk to get them.”

Myers will free Luke, Bandit, and his friends back into the wild over the next couple months.

Wilkinson said if you do pick up a baby animal you believe to be injured or in danger, the first thing you should do is contact your local DNR officer. That officer can then find a licensed wildlife rehabilitator equipped to take the animal.

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