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You found orphaned or injured wildlife – now what?

 

May 22, 2020

*If you have found orphaned or injured wildlife (any species), please contact a local licensed wildlife rehabilitator!*

For Virginia, search for a licensed wildlife rehabilitator here.

For North Carolina, search here.

For Maryland, search here.

For any other state, complete an internet search of “South Carolina licensed wildlife rehabilitator” inserting your state. If you need further assistance, contact your state’s Department of Natural Resources (sometimes they use a different name for wildlife), or contact us and we can assist in finding you the right resource.

NOTE: most SPCAs and city/county animal controls WILL NOT accept wildlife! The Virginia Living Museum is also NOT a licensed rehabilitator, and therefore cannot accept wild (or domestic) animals.

 

A cedar waxwing fledgling at Centre Wildlife Care in Pennsylvania, where I interned in 2008

 

Everyone loves babies! They’re cute, cuddly, and some are wild. When it comes to rescuing an orphaned or injured wild animal, would you know what to do?

 

Wildlife – Leave it Wild!

Let’s say you found a baby bird, which is extremely common in Hampton Roads between March and June (and even into the summer). If the bird is fully feathered, and maybe even a little extra fluffy looking, it is likely a fledgling and DOES NOT need any help! Birds of many species that can’t fly often leave the nest while mom and dad still protect and feed the fledgling. This is awesome graphic from Bird and Moon show’s an easy flow chart to follow when deciding if a baby songbird needs your help. Still have questions? Keep an eye on it and call you local wildlife rehabber!

Credit: Bird and Moon Comics

What about white-tailed deer fawns? You’ve probably seen them laying in your backyard or along hiking trails. This is normal behavior for fawns! Mom will cache the fawn (sometimes in places we think are odd choices, but hey, agree to disagree as parents, right?), go off and eat, and return hours or even a day later. It is the sole job of the fawn to stay still laying down, and it’s spots help camouflage it from predators. While the white on brown spots don’t appear as if they work well to hide from people, it does help them hide from predators with different kinds of vision than us – the spots blend them into the surrounding brush! Not sure what to do? Call your local reahbber! You’ll see that answer will be repeated over and over again in this post =)

Check out this graphic from our friends in North Carolina at CLAWS – they have great informational graphics for all kinds of wildlife too.

Be A Dear, Leave The Fawns Alone!-0

 

You Said “Licensed Wildlife Rehabber” – But Can I Also Take Care of Wildlife?

The short answer is sadly, NO. It is illegal in most states to be in possession of any wild animals, without special permitting and other special procedures.

The longer answer has to do with the level of care required for these animals. Wildlife is expensive, dangerous, and there are many federal and state laws pertaining to their specific care and housing.

Every state has different requirements and protocols for licensed wildlife rehabilitators, and it is becoming increasingly more expensive and complicated to become/maintain rehab status in many states. Therefore, each rehabber fills up with intakes quickly and sometimes has to close to new cases – often in the middle of peak baby season! Did I mention you don’t get paid to be a licensed wildlife rehabber? These super heroes work solely on donations and don’t get federal or state funding. Let that sink in for a minute. (Side note: if you’re in an area where rehabbers DO get funding, please reach out to us so we can tell them how lucky they are an figure out how they got that sweet deal!)

Most mammals cannot digest cows milk, and many need specialty formulas that are hard to find or expensive. Songbird nestlings don’t eat worms, they eat digested worms, or in a rehabber’s case a special bird formula. Different species of birds and mammals eat different things as they grow, and often needed extensive space to mature and stretch their legs before they are considered “releasable” back to the wild. And reptiles and amphibians? They have even more particular care needs! Remember the fact that all of this is completed on donations only? Talk about doing it for the love of animals!

Bottle feeding an orphaned raccoon at Centre Wildlife Care during my internship in 2008

My Internship at a Licensed Wildlife Rehabilitator

How do I know so much about licensed wildlife rehabbers, having spent 10 years in zoos? Growing up on Long Island, an hour east of New York City, I did not know what a “wildlife rehabber” was until I started undergrad at Penn State in the fall of 2006. When it came time to start exploring internships and volunteer opportunities, a classmate suggested a rehabber just outside of town named Centre Wildlife Care. I went to several informational sessions, took a class on rabies vector species (more on that later), got three (very painful!) pre-rabies inoculations, and got my first real hands on experience with wild animals.

I worked either alone or with another intern, underneath the watchful eyes of the Director and several long time (read: very experienced) volunteers. These humans, along with the countless animals, acted as a crash course in animal care – particularly releasable animal care. This was not the career path I envisioned for myself, but I knew it was a great place to start. I learned how to incubate eggs, syringe feed week old chipmunks, make perfect nests in cups for songbirds, and even handle larger animals such as raptors and snakes. I loved every minute of the experience, and little did I know that I would wind up working with those native species again 12 years later!

Shout out to Centre Wildlife Care for giving me skills I still use to this day! If you live in central PA or know someone who goes to school at Penn State, please consider donating to them during this difficult time too – or find your local rehabber and donate to them! They all love donations of supplies too. And remember – have questions about wildlife? (all together now) CALL YOUR LOCAL LICENSED WILDLIFE REHABBER!

 

Now, as a former professor of mine once said, time for some gratuitous animal photos… enjoy!

Top to bottom: Bluebird fledglings after a feed, infant bat, juvenile opossums, juvenile flying squirrel, juvenile fisher, juvenile skunks (who CAN spray… and I know from personal experience as an intern!)

 

*If you have found orphaned or injured wildlife (any species), please contact a local licensed wildlife rehabilitator!*

For Virginia, search for a licensed wildlife rehabilitator here.

For North Carolina, search here.

For Maryland, search here.

For any other state, complete an internet search of “South Carolina licensed wildlife rehabilitator” inserting your state. If you need further assistance, contact your state’s Department of Natural Resources (sometimes they use a different name for wildlife), or contact us and we can assist in finding you the right resource.

NOTE: most SPCAs and city/county animal controls WILL NOT accept wildlife! The Virginia Living Museum is also NOT a licensed rehabilitator, and therefore cannot accept wild (or domestic) animals.

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