There is a certain satisfaction in the thought of “rescuing” something that appears helpless. However, the act of rescuing can sometimes cause more harm than good. This is often the case when people come in contact with seemingly “orphaned” wildlife, according to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division.
"While we know that most people often have good intentions, the fact is that young wildlife taken into captivity can lose their natural instincts and ability to survive in the wild,” explains John Bowers, Wildlife Resources Division chief of game management. “In most instances, the adult animal is only a short distance away providing a critical survival mechanism by helping minimize predation on young wildlife.”
The best thing people can do when they see a young animal, or in fact any wildlife, is to leave it alone exactly as they found it. Situations become much more complex, and sometimes pose a danger to the wildlife or people, when an animal is moved or taken into a home.
What If the Animal is Injured?
Persons not licensed and trained in wildlife rehabilitation should not attempt to care for wildlife. In fact, Georgia law prohibits the possession of most wildlife without a permit. If you encounter a seriously injured animal or an animal that clearly has been orphaned, please contact a local licensed wildlife rehabilitator.
A list of licensed rehabilitators is available at www.georgiawildlife.com/special-permits-unit (select “Wildlife Rehabilitator List” from this page).
Why Wildlife Does NOT Belong in Your Home
Handling of any wildlife or bringing them into the home poses health risks for both people and domestic pets. Despite the fact that they make look healthy, wildlife can transmit life-threatening diseases such as rabies and can carry unhealthy parasites such as roundworms, lice, fleas and ticks. Certain ticks are especially known to transmit diseases such as ‘Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever’ and ‘Southern Tick Associated Rash Illness’ to humans.
Protect yourself and your family. Contact the local county health department and/or Wildlife Resources Division office if you encounter an animal such as a bat, fox, skunk, raccoon, coyote or bobcat that appears to show no fear of humans or dogs, or that seems to behave in a sick or abnormal manner (i.e. weaving, drooling, etc.). The animal may be afflicted with rabies, distemper or another disease. Do not attempt to feed or handle animals. Pets, livestock and humans should be kept away from the area where the animal was observed.
The two most important steps you can take to protect yourself and your pets from rabies is 1) get pets vaccinated and 2) avoid physical contact with wildlife. As another precautionary step, adults should instruct children to NEVER bring wildlife home.
A new video about this topic is now available at www.youtube.com/GeorgiaWildlife , check out “Recent Uploads” to find this new video “Orphaned Wildlife in Georgia.”