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 initially watch in amazement and then sometimes wonder if the animal is in need of help. The Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division encourages 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.”
Additionally, handling such animals and 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.
Individuals who are not trained in wildlife rehabilitation should not attempt to care for wildlife and additionally, Georgia law 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. A list of rehabilitators is available at www.georgiawildlife.com (select “Find a Wildlife Rehabilitator” from the home page). People also can contact their local Wildlife Resources Division office to obtain a contact number for a licensed wildlife rehabilitator to provide proper care for the animal until it can be released into the wild.
Residents that 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 1) get pets vaccinated and 2) avoid physical contact with wildlife. As another precautionary step, adults should instruct children to NEVER bring wildlife home.
For more information, visit www.georgiawildlife.com, contact a local Wildlife Resources Division Game Management office or call (770) 918-6416.