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Rescue

Rescue – The process of finding a wild animal sick, injured or orphaned, in need of a responsible human to help protect its survival.

Goal of BTN’s Animal Rescue

The main goal of Back To Nature’s Animal Rescue is to provide the proper medical care and treatment needed for injured and orphaned FL native wildlife. With the help of local officials and private citizens, Back To Nature helps rescue thousands of animals yearly.

No Animal Left Behind

Back To Nature is dedicated to the rescue of injured and orphaned Florida Native Wildlife. By working with the local Orange County community and Animal Services, Back to Nature rescues an estimated 4,000 animals per year. Our passionate staff and volunteers work around the clock to make sure that every rescue animal is given the proper care and love.

Tarot the red tailed hawk
Tarot the Red Tailed Hawk

From Rescue to “Educational Ambassador”

Back to Nature has rescued thousands of animals. In some cases though, special attention is required. These special cases include non-Florida native species or wildlife that may not be able to survive if released back into the wild. Upon approval by the Veterinarian of Record and FWC or USFWC some of these animals become permanent residents of BTN. Our facility currently houses 30 non-releasable animals at our wildlife refuge. There are over 20 different species which consist of both exotic and native species. Each animal has a special story and a special reason for why they live at Back to Nature and, they are viewable from the Wildlife Walk. Visitors can see and learn about our residents six days a week (Tues.-Sun.) from 9am-4pm. Click here to view our Residents Page.

Our Rescue Policy

Upon arrival of every animal brought in by a private citizen, each animal is given a full examination to best determine its treatment. Rabies Vector species (bats, raccoons, foxes, skunks, bobcats, & otters) are evaluated by vaccinated staff only and extra precautions are always taken. This ensures that no harm will fall upon the other resident wildlife or wildlife currently being treated at our facility. We ask that all citizens take extra precaution when transporting injured or orphaned wildlife. Please do not have direct contact with a rabies vector species. Support BTN by contributing donations towards our cause.

Precious the raccoon.
Precious the Raccoon

Before You Rescue…

If you have found and animal and want to know how you can help, please refer to the information below to find out what measures you can take to help save the wildlife before bringing them to Back To Nature Wildlife Refuge. Animals may appear injured or orphaned, but investigating before removing the animal, is crucial. 

BIRDS OF PREY, FOXES, BATS, BOBCATS, OTTERS, FAWN, & COYOTE-PLEASE FIRST CALL US FOR ASSISTANCE.

BABY SONGBIRDS – What many people don’t realize is that most of the baby birds they find on the ground are supposed to be there. If you find a featherless, downy, or incompletely feathered bird it will need your help. If the bird appears uninjured the best chance of survival is if it is returned to the nest. So if possible, gently return it to the nest. Often, you will see the bird parents flying near. If you find a nest on the ground with babies or eggs, tie or hang it on a nearby tree. The nest can be placed in a little box or margarine tub (with drainage holes) to make it easier to secure. If the baby appears injured or the nest cannot be located, place the bird in a small, covered box lined with tissue; keep it warm, safe from your pets, and place in a dark and quiet space. 

If all goes well, nestlings grow up and become fledglings, which have stumpy tails and are fully feathered – but cannot yet fly. If you find a fledgling hopping on the ground, don’t pick it up. This period of being on the ground is a normal and necessary part of a bird developing the skills of survival. The parents are still around, feeding them, showing them where to look for food, and hiding them under bushes. The best thing you can do is keep your dogs, cats and children away from the area for a few days.

If you’ve already picked up the bird, place it back where you found it or under a nearby bush. Of course, there are times when the fledgling does need help, such as when it’s injured or in the middle of a busy street. In that case, place the bird in a small, covered box or paper bag to keep it warm, dark and quiet, and bring it to us. Minimum contact reduces stress and increases any animal’s chances of survival. Adult song birds can die from stress very quickly if not given a safe, dark, quiet place also.

DO NOT OFFER FOOD. Provide a few drops of water or Pedialyte during the first 12 hours.

VET offices, in most cases, are not licensed to accept or examine wildlife. All injured and orphaned wildlife must be taken to a licensed wildlife rehabilitator/facility.

TURTLES AND GOPHER TORTOISES– Both turtles and tortoises are never considered ‘orphaned’ because they hatch alone and are able to forage on their own. If you find one, leave it alone. We are not allowed to legally accept any turtle or tortoise unless it has been injured. If you have a burrow on your property, keep your pets away from the area. Contact FWC for further concerns. Gopher tortoises are a threatened species and can only be handled if injured and must immediately be transported to a licensed wildlife rehabilitator or animal services officer. DO NOT RELOCATE! If helping cross the road, always safely place the reptile on the side they are attempting to cross to. 

WATERBIRDS – Regarding DUCKS: Back to Nature can only accept Black bellied whistling ducks, wood ducks, and mottled ducks for care. All ducklings must be called in before transporting to check for space availability. The young of ducks and many shorebirds are born with their eyes open and are able to immediately forage on their own. Ducks will often leave their young for several hours; do not pick them up thinking they are abandoned – most times they are not. Obviously, there are situations when these babies are in distress and need to be rescued and you will need to evaluate the situation you find them in.

SQUIRRELS – If you find a young squirrel on the ground that appears healthy and the nest has been destroyed, the squirrel can still be returned to its mother. Squirrels use two or more nests concurrently throughout the year. Follow the steps below and allow the young squirrel a second chance at being raised in the wild by its mother.

Just like young birds, young squirrels frequently fall out of their nest and do not always need to be rescued. It is always in the best interest of the squirrel to be raised by its mother. If you find a young squirrel on the ground that appears healthy (no blood, bruising, or wounds), place the squirrel in a small box with low sides in the location where you found the squirrel. Put a warm blanket or a hot water bottle in the box to keep the squirrel warm. The mother will not take back a cold baby. Keep all domestic cats and dogs away from the area. Leave the box and observe from a hidden area for 3-4 hours. You can use a smart phone and YouTube app to search “Baby Squirrel Call’. By playing this sound, you can alert the mother squirrel to come to her young. The mother will not approach if she feels threatened in any way so please stay away from the area. If after 3-4 hours the mother has not come to collect her young, the squirrel may need to be rescued. If the squirrel(s) is found in the evening hours, bring inside for the night, keep it warm, and try again early in the morning. 

If you find a young squirrel on the ground and there are signs of blood, broken bones, or it has been attacked by a domestic cat or dog, place the squirrel in a covered box or carrier with a towel. Keep it in a warm, dark and quiet place and bring it to a licensed rehabber as soon as possible. DO NOT OFFER FOOD OR WATER. If you insist on feeding it, you can use a small dropper with ‘Pedialyte’. This is the safest method for hydration/nourishment. Inexperienced care taking can lead to pneumonia or hypoglycemia. Cow milk and other formulas may cause more harm to the animal. Please do not attempt to raise it or keep it! 

RABBITS : You may refer to this link for rabbit information. CLICK HERE 

RACCOONS are the highest RABIES carriers in Florida. Do not handle unless absolutely necessary (and wearing gloves). If you have raccoons in your attic, always assume its a mother raccoon with babies. If the mother is trapped, you must look for the babies before she is removed or relocated. Please, call ahead for all raccoon inquiries as BTN is limited in how many raccoons can be cared for at a time. Every healthy animal deserves a chance to be reunited with its parent when possible. Keep baby raccoons away from pets, children and pregnant women. 

OPOSSUMS are North America’s only marsupial. The female carries and nurses her young (up to 13 at a time) in her pouch until they are about 2-3 months old. Then they are carried another 1-3 months on her back when they are outside their den. They are omnivores that have been around since the days of the dinosaurs. They have 50 teeth, more than any other mammal, and their hind feet have thumbs, just like human hands. Learning and discrimination tests rank them above dogs, and more on the level of pigs. They have a prehensile tail they use for balance when climbing or to carry leaves back to their den for bedding. They do not, however, hang by their tail. They are solitary and nocturnal, preferring to avoid all confrontations. When cornered, they may hiss and growl or fall into an involuntary shock-like state (“playing possum”). Unfortunately, few live beyond 1 year of age in the wild as they are killed by many predators: humans (and cars), dogs, cats, owls, and larger wildlife. Mother opossums are often hit by cars and killed, however, their young may still be safe inside their pouch. When possible, investigate deceased road kill opossums as you may end up saving up to 13 healthy babies. 

If you have found a baby opossum, a young (weak) opossum with no mother, or you know the mother to be dead, here are a few guidelines:

  • KEEP YOUNG OPOSSUMS WARM. Place the opossums in a box lined with soft rags and close the lid. They are very good climbers, so make certain that the lid is secure. If you have a heating pad, turn it on low and place half the box on top of the pad
  • Place the box in a warm, dark, quiet area away from people and pets
  • If the opossum’s eyes have not opened yet, please get it to a licensed rehabilitator as soon as possible. Do not attempt to hydrate or feed it. It is very easy to aspirate a baby, which can be fatal.
  • If the baby you have found is 4″ long or longer (including tail), has its eyes opened and isn’t lethargic, you may give it a little yogurt or canned cat food in a shallow lid. These emergency feeding instructions are only good for the 24-hour period it might take you to get the orphan to a licensed rehabilitator.
  • If the opossum has fleas and the nose is pale in color (not a healthy pink), then it is anemic and in need of care. However, if it appears healthy and the body (not including the tail) is larger than a soda can, then the opossum should be turned loose in a nearby wooded area.