If you’ve got a pet who is constantly on the lookout for wildlife, you may come across an injured wild animal or a baby that seems abandoned. Though it may be tempting to bring the animal into your home to nurture it back to health, this is not the best option for you or for the animal. Here are some of the basic hazards of trying to care for wildlife as well as the better alternatives.
The animal is likely scared and may scratch or bite to defend itself: This is a real danger to you as even if the animal is small and you barely felt the bite, infection is still likely. Also, many animals are much stronger than we anticipate and are capable of doing some serious damage to your body-including your hands and face. Even domesticated cats and dogs may attack if they feel threatened or cornered.
The animal’s injuries are likely beyond your ability to repair: Smaller scrapes may seem easy enough to bandage, but unless you have veterinary training, you will not be able to tell if there is underlying damage. The animal may need medications or even surgery (which requires proper dosing of anesthesia). If it is an infant, it is unlikely that you will be able to supply proper environmental conditions and nutrition for it to survive.
The baby may not be abandoned: Mothers do have to leave the nest or burrow at some point to get food for herself. Just because she’s not there right when you stumbled across the babies does not mean that they have been abandoned. If this occurs in your backyard, keep an eye out for the mother to come home before scooping up any babies.
These animals are wild and are not domesticated pets: The animal is called “wildlife” for a reason. These animals, even if they seem affectionate towards you, are still wild. The domestication of modern dogs and cats took thousands of years. Don’t think that you can domesticate an animal overnight (or even over an extended period of time). If you’ve found a cat, remember that it may be feral. Feral cats are not socialized to humans and may hiss or even attack out of fear.
The animal may not be able to return to the wild: Depending on the extent of the injuries, the animal may not be able to survive on its own in the wild. On the other hand, animal babies that are socialized to humans may not develop the survival skills needed in the wild during their socialization periods. That being said, just because you raised a wild animal from when it was an infant does not mean it is domesticated.
It could be illegal: State laws may vary, but most states require permits for rehabilitation of wildlife and/or outlaw wildlife to be kept as pets.
Now that you’re aware of some of the basic issues with trying to save an innocent animal, know that there’s a better solution: call a professional. There are many wildlife rehabilitation facilities throughout the nation who will either come out to your location to pick up an injured or abandoned animal or walk you through containing it safely to bring to their facility. If you’re unsure as to where a rehabilitation center is near you, the Ohio Wildlife Rehabilitators Association (OWRA) provides a comprehensive list of rehabilitators in every state. They also offer workshops to learn proper rehabilitation techniques. Here in Cleveland, the closest rehabilitation facility is at the Lake Erie Nature & Science Center.
Have any further questions or experiences with wildlife rehabilitation? Let us know in the comments below!