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What to Do When You Encounter a Wild Animal

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What to Do When You Encounter a Wild Animal

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

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TAILS

TAILS is an interactive website, online community, and print magazine that celebrates the relationship between pets and their people. TAILS features expert knowledge, advice, pet product reviews, local resource guides, community event listings, and fun contests to promote and encourage people to live responsibly with their pets.

225 comments

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4:42AM PDT on Jun 16, 2014

Such a privilege to encounter a wild animal in its habitat.

4:40AM PDT on Jun 16, 2014

Noted thanks

4:22AM PDT on May 5, 2014

thanx for sharing this great post

3:35PM PST on Feb 5, 2014

Thanks for this informative post.

4:55AM PST on Dec 30, 2013

Very interesting, one is never too old to learn, thank you :)

2:45AM PDT on Oct 15, 2013

Thanks

1:38AM PDT on Oct 15, 2013

Nice article, thank you very much :)

7:02PM PDT on Sep 10, 2013

Thanks for the good information

9:17AM PDT on Sep 10, 2013

Excellent article, thank you!
I must admit that my "caring instinct" for wildlife is a mix of good will and wishful thinking. I really hadn't known what I read here about birds and young animals but it makes a lot of sense to let Nature (and the mother) "take her course."

As for larger wildlife, I'd better learn the ropes as I migrate between two habitats with entirely different local fauna. So far I've been fortunate, but I'd rather be prepared than risk my luck running out. It's 20 years since my family had a run-in with rabies: our dog's vaccination protected her after she was attacked and bitten on the nose by a rabid fox one-third her size, on our lawn in broad daylight. (She got fat spending nearly 3 months in quarantine and cried when we had to leave at the end of our daily visits.) As both my preschool daughters and I touched her wound in cleaning it we had to go through the series of shots. Almost every year there are reports of more cases, even this week. So scary!

1:42PM PDT on Sep 4, 2013

Lyn S.,

What I learned long ago, live in rural farming area and have had to protect and rescue many animals (companion and wild) that you did wrong for baby birds. Next time leave the baby birds exactly where they are and keep all companion animals away, even if you handle them the mother bird will work to get them back in the nest.

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