A nest of baby rabbits. (Photo: Contributed)

During the spring, it is not unusual for people to come in contact with seemingly “orphaned” young wildlife and want to help — but it is best to leave them where you find them, according to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division.

“When you take wildlife into your home, you often take away that animal’s ability to then survive in the wild, where they belong,” said John Bowers, Wildlife Resources Division chief of the Game Management Section. “In most instances, there is an adult animal a short distance away — even though you may not be able to see it. Adult animals, such as deer, spend most of the day away from their young to reduce the risk of a predator finding the young animal.”

The best thing people can do when they see a young animal, or in fact any wildlife, is to leave it exactly as they found it. Situations become much more complex and sometimes pose a danger to the wildlife or people when an animal is moved or taken into a home.

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What if the animal is injured?
If you are not licensed and trained in wildlife rehabilitation, you should not attempt to care for wildlife. In fact, 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, please contact a local, licensed wildlife rehabilitator.

A list of licensed rehabilitators in Georgia is available here.

Click here for a list of wildlife rehabilitators in Alabama.

Find wildlife rehabilitators in Tennessee here.

Why wildlife does not belong in 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 may look healthy, wildlife can transmit life-threatening diseases such as rabies and can carry parasites such as roundworms, lice, fleas and ticks. Certain ticks 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 Wildlife Resources Division office if you encounter an animal such as a bat, fox, skunk, raccoon, coyote or bobcat 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 animals. 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 are 1. get pets vaccinated and 2. avoid physical contact with wildlife. As another precautionary step, adults should instruct children to never bring wildlife home.

Watch a video about this topic here.

For more information, contact a local Georgia Wildlife Resources Division office.

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