SASKATOON -- Time is of the essence in finding the mother of a baby found dead in a dumpster behind apartment buildings in downtown Saskatoon, police say.

Police spokeswoman Alyson Edwards told reporters Friday the baby was recently born and police are "urgently" looking for the mother, who may be in a vulnerable physical and emotional state.

"We want this mother to come forward. We want to assist her in any way we can. That’s the priority."

Police say there is evidence of a recent birth, but believe the birth occurred at another location.

An early step in the search will be to contact health facilities, Edwards said.

"Perhaps someone knows of a woman who was pregnant recently and is not pregnant any longer but there is no evidence of a child in that person's life. They may have information that is critical to locating this mother."

Police were initially called to the scene, in the 400 block of 5th Avenue North, around 8:50 a.m., after a report of an unknown problem.

Forensic investigators could be seen blocking off a recycling dumpster with a large blue tarp. The dumpster was eventually hoisted onto a truck and removed from the scene.

Man helped lift baby out

A man who lives in a nearby apartment building said he was among those who discovered the baby Friday morning.

He said he came across a neighbour and a bottle-picker looking in the dumpster where the infant was found.

"The guy searching for bottles came across the infant, and I helped the other guy take the infant out, it was a baby girl, probably newborn," Jonathon Mercredi said in an interview.

"It was something I'll never forget actually."

Police have not shared the infant's gender publically.

Mercredi said the baby was wrapped in a reusable shopping bag that was also wrapped in plastic.

After the police were called, Mercredi and the man who helped him remove the baby returned it to the dumpster because they considered it a crime scene.

"It's going to be at the back of my mind, I don't know how I'm going to sleep tonight"

An autopsy is scheduled for Tuesday to learn about the cause of death and when it occurred, Edwards said.

Anyone with information about the mother is asked to contact the Saskatoon Police Service at 306-975-8300 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.

With files from CTV News Saskatoon's Laura Woodward, Jonathon Charlton and Saron Fanel