That baby squirrel may not actually need your help

A squirrel catches some sun.
If a windstorm knocks down a squirrel nest, Phil Jenni recommends leaving the baby squirrels at the base of the tree to see if their mother returns.
Monika Lawrence for MPR News

It's about to be baby season — also known as the busy season — at the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Minnesota.

The Roseville-based animal hospital sees approximately 2,000 wild animals a month from May through July, thanks to warm temperatures and spring births that bring more people than ever into contact with animals. The facility treat mammals and non-raptors, including rabbits, deer, ducks, foxes, songbirds and many others.

Phil Jenni, executive director of the WRC, joined MPR News host Tom Weber to talk about what do if you think you see an animal in need of help.

Always put your own safety first

"The cardinal rule is to make sure that you protect yourself first," Jenni said. That means wearing protective clothing and being aware of your surroundings.

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"Stopping for an animal on the side of a highway is dangerous. One of the things we want to make sure of is that you don't put yourself or others at risk."

Call the WRC or another wildlife service before you approach an animal

Call first.

WRC staff does not come out to pick up animals, but they will coach people through it, Jenni said.

"Various animals will require different kinds of strategies, whether its gloves or towels or what kind of box," Jenni said. "Even a snapping turtle can hurt you if you pick it up wrong."

Put on gloves

Never use bare hands to pick up a wild animal, Jenni said.

Be careful not to help too much

Every year, people bring in young animals that they think have been abandoned, like fawns, baby bunnies and baby squirrels. That is not always necessary.

The WRC often advises people to wait 24 hours before approaching animals, the parents may simply be away. Interfering can hurt more than it can help.

"We're really good at what we do," Jenni said, "But nature is so much better."

Control your pets

Roughly 12 percent of the injuries that WRC treats each year are the result of domestic animal attacks, usually by pet cats or dogs.

"People ask me: 'What can we do to help wildlife?'" Jenni said. "They'll expect me to talk about habitat protection, that sort of thing, and what I say is: 'Keep your pets indoors, or on leashes and under your control.""

Knit a nest

A knitted nest
Knitted nests can be used in incubators for baby songbirds being treated at the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Minnesota.
Stephanie Curtis | MPR News

If you're a knitter, you can donate knitted nests for the approximately 2,000 baby songbirds that will pass through the WRC in the next 6 months.

"A lot of times, they just need something warm. They're in incubators, and these are wonderful for replacing their nest in the wild," Jenni said.

For the full discussion with the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Minnesota's Phil Jenni, use the audio player above.