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'Orphaned' wildlife do not need to be rescued

POSTED: April 6, 2009 9:14 a.m.
SOCIAL CIRCLE — Concern for ‘orphaned’ wildlife is simply human nature. Most people who come across a deer fawn, a young bird or a newborn rabbit will initially watch in amazement and then immediately wonder if the animal is in need of help. Yet, as newborn wildlife blossom into existence this spring, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division encourages residents to resist the urge to ‘rescue’ these animals.
“Although individuals may have good intentions, young animals unnecessarily taken into captivity lose their natural instincts and ability to survive in the wild,” explains John Bowers, Wildlife Resources Division assistant chief of game management. The urge to ‘help’ or ‘save’ these animals is strongly discouraged both for the survival of the animal and the safety of the individual.
“Most of the time, 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, but do frequently tend to their young,” Bowers said.
“Additionally, handling wild animals and bringing them into the home poses health risks for both people and pets. 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.”
Residents who encounter a seriously injured animal or an animal that clearly has been orphaned should 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. Individuals who are not trained in wildlife rehabilitation should not attempt to care for wildlife. Georgia law prohibits the possession of most wildlife without a permit.
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 contact with wildlife. As another precautionary step, adults should instruct children to never bring wildlife home.
For more information on orphaned, injured or diseased wildlife, visit www.georgiawildlife.com, contact a local Wildlife Resources Division Game Management office or call (770) 918-6416.

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