As the weather warms and people spend more time outdoors, they sometimes come in contact with seemingly “orphaned” wildlife. 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 appears to be helpless and alone are only temporarily separated from adults. This natural behavior is a critical survival mechanism. Adults spend a significant amount of time away from their offspring to minimize predation.”
If you are not licensed and trained in wildlife rehabilitation, do not attempt to care for wildlife. 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, contact a local licensed wildlife rehabilitator.
A list of licensed rehabilitators is available at http://georgiawildlife.com/special-permits-unit (select “Wildlife Rehabilitator List” from this page). You also can contact a local Wildlife Resources Division office to find a rehabilitator.
Wildlife, Disease and 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 WRD office if you 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.). The animal may be afflicted with rabies, distemper or another disease. Do not attempt to feed or handle the sick animal. 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 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.