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Do not rescue an orphaned wildlife baby-it is not necessary

From the Georgia Department of Natural Resources

Photo courtesy E.O. Burdeshaw
This juvenile owl wasn't lost or in trouble. It left after its parent returned. Photo courtesy E.O. Burdeshaw.

Concern for wildlife, especially young animals, is simply human nature.

Most people who come across a deer fawn, a young bird or a newborn rabbit that is alone will watch in amazement and then sometimes wonder if the animal is in need of help.

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources' Wildlife Resources Division and wildlife professionals across the country encourage residents to resist the urge to rescue these animals.

"Despite good intentions, young wildlife taken into captivity can lose their natural instincts and ability to survive in the wild," explains John Bowers, Wildlife Resources Division assistant chief of Game Management.

"In most instances, young wildlife that appear to be helpless and alone are only temporarily separated from the adults. This natural behavior is a critical survival mechanism. Adults spend a significant amount of time away from their offspring to minimize predation."

Handling such animals and bringing them into a 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.

Individuals who are not trained in wildlife rehabilitation should not attempt to care for wildlife and additionally, Georgia law - as well as laws in many other states--prohibits the possession of most wildlife without a permit.

Residents that encounter a seriously injured animal or an animal that clearly has been orphaned should first try to contact a local licensed wildlife rehabilitator or their nearest wildlife resources division office.   In Georgia, a list of rehabilitators is available here.

Wildlife rehabilitators provide proper care for the animal until it can be released into the wild.

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 Wildlife Resources Division 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 get pets vaccinated and to avoid physical contact with wildlife.

Adults should instruct children to NEVER bring wildlife home.

For more information in Georgia, visit www.georgiawildlife.com, contact a local Wildlife Resources Division Game Management office or call (770)918-6416.

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