Even if you live in an urban environment, encounters with wildlife are common. People—animal lovers in particular—who come across what looks like an abandoned or hurt wild animal are often compelled to pick the animal up and care for him. However, that is advisable only in rare situations.
You need to be aware of the potential dangers that wildlife can pose to your pets as well as the potential dangers that your pets can pose to wildlife.
Orphaned Wild Animals
Many people’s first instinct when they see a baby animal by herself is to pick the animal up and bring her home. That is not the right move because the animal may not be abandoned.
Watch the animal from a distance. Many species are left alone for periods at a young age. Observe the animal for 24 hours. That way you can be sure that the animal is alone and that the mother is not foraging for food.
As with any set of rules, there are exceptions. Here are some tips on how to act when dealing with a specific species:
Bird: It is best to locate the nest, pick the bird up with gloved hands, and place him back in the nest. If you cannot locate the nest, create one by putting leaves, grass, or a soft cloth into a small box and placing it in a tree or bush near where you found the bird. Observe for 24 hours to see if the bird is being cared for.
Duckling/Gosling: Using gloved hands, place the bird as close to the flock as you can. If the flock accepts the duckling/gosling, everything should be fine.
Deer Fawn: Fawns are often left alone while the parents forage, but if the baby deer looks cold, hungry, diseased, confused, or threatened, call a wildlife rehabilitator.
Rabbit: If the baby rabbit is at least 4-5 inches long, has fur, open eyes, and is hopping around, leave her alone—she is old enough to be out of the nest. If the nest looks like it has been dug up and there are surviving rabbits, it is best to place them back in the hole with gloved hands, cover them with the nesting materials (which should include grass and fur), and observe for 24-48 hours.
If a parent does not return after 24 hours and you are sure that the animal has been abandoned, the best course of action is to alert professionals at your local wildlife rehabilitation center who know how to deal with such situations.
NOTE: In some cases there is little to no money for government agencies to fund animal care and control. If this is the case, you may have to call private exterminators—but be careful. Some of them “remove” the animal, and kill him, making no attempt at rehabilitation.
Next: What to do if you find an injured wild animal