Orphaned Wildlife Needs No Rescue

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Concern for “orphaned” wildlife is simply human nature. Most people who come across a deer fawn, a young bird or a newborn rabbit will initially watch in amazement and then immediately wonder if the animal is in need of help. This spring, as newborn wildlife blossom into existence, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division (WRD) encourages residents to resist the natural urge to rescue these “orphaned” wildlife.

“While a person may have good intentions, young animals unnecessarily taken into captivity lose their natural instincts and ability to survive in the wild,” says WRD Assistant Chief of Game Management John Bowers. Thus, the urge to “help” or “save” these animals is strongly discouraged both for the survival of the animal and the safety of the individual.

“Most of the time, young animals that appear to be helpless and alone are only separated from the adults temporarily. This separation of adults from newborns is a critical survival mechanism. Adults spend a significant amount of time away from their offspring to minimize predation, but do frequently check on their young,” explains Bowers.

“Additionally, handling wild animals and bringing them into the home poses a health risk for both people and pets. Wildlife can transmit life-threatening diseases such as rabies and can carry parasites such as roundworms, lice, fleas and ticks,” explains Bowers.

Residents who encounter a seriously injured animal or an animal that clearly has been orphaned should contact their local WRD office to obtain a contact number for a certified wildlife rehabilitator who is licensed to provide proper care for the animal until it can be released back into the wild. Individuals who are not trained in wildlife rehabilitation should not attempt to care for wildlife. Georgia law prohibits the possession of most wildlife without a permit.

Residents who encounter an animal such as a bat, fox, skunk, raccoon, coyote or bobcat during the daytime 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.), should avoid the animal and contact the local county health office and/or a WRD office for guidance.

The animal may be afflicted with rabies, distemper or another disease. Residents should not attempt to feed or handle the sick animal. Pets, livestock and humans should be kept away from the area in which the animal was observed.

The two most important steps people can take to protect themselves and their pets from rabies is to 1) get pets vaccinated and 2) avoid contact with wildlife. As another precautionary step, adults should instruct children to NEVER bring wildlife home.

For more information on orphaned, injured or diseased wildlife, visit www.georgiawildlife.com,  contact a local WRD Game Management Office or call (770) 918-6416.