“Rescuing” an animal can sometimes cause more harm than good, even if done with the best of intentions. This is often the case when people come in contact with seemingly “orphaned” young wildlife, according to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division.
"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, there is an adult animal a short distance away and just out of your sight. Adult animals, such as deer, spend most of the day away from the immediate vicinity of their young to reduce the risk of a predator finding the young animal.”
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.gadnrle.org (select “Special Permits” from the right hand side of the home page and scroll down to “Wildlife Rehabilitation”).
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 may look healthy, wildlife can transmit life-threatening diseases such as rabies and can carry parasites such as roundworms, lice, fleas and ticks. Certain ticks 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 video about this topic is available at www.youtube.com/GeorgiaWildlife , click on “Videos” to find the title “Orphaned Wildlife in Georgia.”