When Does Wildlife Need Our Help? Or Are We Doing More Harm?

With the increasingly nice weather, we see more wildlife activity which also means seeing more babies and injured wildlife. Sometimes it is hard to tell if the animal truly needs human intervention. Many wild animals leave their babies in a safe spot for long periods of time while out feeding and foraging. Baby wild animals might seem like they need our help, but unless the animal is truly orphaned or injured, there is no need to rescue them. Even with the best intentions, sometimes taking an uninjured baby animal from their environment will decrease their chance for survival.

How do you tell if wildlife needs help?

Determining whether an animal is orphaned and needs your help depends on age, species, and behavior. Babies of some species are left alone all day and rely on camouflage for protection, while others are tightly supervised by their parent. Some animals will play dead or appeared injured as a defense mechanism. Although we want to help, sometimes it is not the best option and can be harmful to the animal. Other times they do need our help!

FIRST - WHAT TYPE OF ANIMAL IS IT?

Is the animal a raccoon, bat, skunk, fox or coyote? IF YES, do not touch, contact Local Animal Control, Health Department, or the Wildlife Resources Commission

Raccoons, bats, skunks, foxes, and coyotes can transmit the fatal RABIES virus to humans and only specially trained and authorized personnel are allowed to handle these animals, even if they are babies. For more information about rabies, please click here.

Never handle an adult animal without first consulting a wildlife professional. Even small animals can injure you. Once you've contacted someone who can help, describe the animal and his physical condition as accurately as possible.

City of Asheville: 828-252-1110
Buncombe Co. Animal Control: 828-250-6670
Buncombe Co. Health Dept: 828-250-5000
Madison Co. Animal Control: 828-649-3190
Haywood Co. Animal Control: 828-456-5338
Henderson Co Animal Control: 828-697-4723
NC Wildlife Resource Commission: 919-707-0010                                

What to do if you find a baby bunny:

A rabbit who is 4 inches long, hops well and has open eyes and erect ears is independent of the mother and should be allowed to fend for itself. Uninjured baby rabbits in an intact nest should also be left alone. Although they might look abandoned because mom isn’t around, mother rabbits visit their dependent young only a few times a day to avoid attracting predators. If the nest has been disturbed, lightly cover it with natural materials you find around the nest, like grass, fur or leaves, and follow these steps:

  • Keep all pets out of the area.
  • Avoid touching the babies, because foreign smells may cause the mother to abandon their young.
  • Use yarn or string to make a tic-tac-toe pattern over the nest to assess whether the mother is returning to nurse their young. Check back 24 hours later.
  • If the yarn or string was moved aside but the nest is still covered with fur, grass or leaves, the mother has returned to nurse their babies.
  • If the string remains undisturbed for 24 hours, contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. 

What if I found a baby mammal?
 
What to do if you find a baby bird
 
What do you do if you found a reptile

What to do if you find a turtle in the road

SECOND: IS THE ANIMAL HURT OR SICK?

Is the animal bleeding, weak or shivering, vomiting, unable to flutter wings, wings drooping unevenly, attacked by a dog or cat, or hit by a car?

If so they may need medical attention. Contact a local wildlife professional for recommendations on the best way to handle and transport the animal. Animals that are sick and injured can injure you out of fear or pain.

THIRD: IS THE ANIMAL A BABY?

Have you found an injured or orphaned wildlife baby? The Humane Society of America has put together a great resource covering how to tell if a baby animal is truly orphaned. This article covers birds, rabbits, squirrels, skunks, deer, opossums, foxes, and raccoons. Remember if it is a fox or a raccoon - do not touch, contact Local Animal Control, Health Department, or the Wildlife Resources Commission. The article also covers the best way to transport the animal.

Tips on how to help injured or orphaned wildlife

If you have questions, you can always call us or the nearest wildlife rehabilitators.

We currently DO NOT have a certified wildlife rehabilitator on-site at the Animal Hospital of North Asheville. We are limited in what we can do to help. Please do not drop off wildlife at AHNA, but call first. If you find a wild animal that is injured, we can assess the severity of injuries and suffering and it may be humanely euthanized if we find that it is not able to be rehabilitated. Licensed wildlife rehabilitators have the appropriate equipment and knowledge on how to best rehabilitate and release the animal(s).

Local Buncombe County Rehabilitators:

Wildlife Rehabilitators go through extensive, specialized training and receive the proper permits through the NC Wildlife Resources Commission and Fish and Wildlife Service to care for the injured and orphaned animals they have in their care. There are many laws and regulations in place to protect wildlife and wild places. These regulations are important in helping to keep the animals and the public safe as well as conserving populations and habitats. Just like the regulations that mandate who can work with native wildlife there are regulations that mandate which native wildlife species rehabilitators can work with.

If you are interested in becoming a wildlife rehabilitator, please visit the NC Wildlife Resources Commission for more information, contact a wildlife rehabilitator close to you, or contact the WNC Nature Center about their wildlife rehabilitation workshop.

(Information provided by Appalachian Wildlife Refuge, the Humane Society of America, and the Turtle Rescue League)​