Care of Young Wildlife
If You Care . . . Leave Them There!
Young Wildlife Belong in the Wild
Every year, many people upset the lives of young wildlife when they only mean to help. The problems arise when people assume that young wildlife found alone are abandoned, helpless and need saving. In nearly all cases, this is a mistake. Often, wild animal parents stay away from their young when people are near.
These well meaning acts of kindness tend to have the opposite result. Most people quickly find that they do not really know how to care for young wildlife, and many of the animals that are "rescued" soon die despite their best efforts.
Even if they do survive in our care, these young wild animals have missed the natural experiences that teach them to fend for themselves. When these wild animals are released back into the wild it is difficult for them to function as they should (for example, their ability to find natural foods is impaired) and they have a reduced ability to survive. Further, they may be thrust as unwelcome intruders into the home range of another member of their species.
Also, the care given to young wildlife often, unavoidably, results in some attachment to humans. On release to the wild, those animals generally have little fear of people. Some return to places where people live, only to be attacked by domestic animals or to be hit by cars. Some become nuisances getting into stored food, trash cans or dwellings. People have also been injured by once-tamed wildlife.
What to Do
All of these problems can be avoided by following the rules below when coming upon young wildlife:
LEAVE THEM ALONE! It may be difficult to do, but this is the real act of kindness and in nearly all cases it is the best thing to do.
DO NOT consider young wildlife as possible pets. This is illegal and is bad for the animal.
However, when you encounter a young wild animal that is obviously injured or orphaned, please call a Wildlife Rehabilitator for advice and help. Wildlife Rehabilitators, volunteers licensed by DEC, are the only people legally allowed to receive and treat distressed wildlife. They have the experience, expertise and facilities to successfully treat wild animals. The goal of the rehabilitator is to release a healthy animal back into the wild, where it belongs.
The following resources can help you locate a Wildlife Rehabilitator in your area
- Find a Wildlife Rehabilitator Near You
- In Erie County, call the DEC Buffalo Main Office at (716) 851-7200.
This office is located at 270 Michigan Avenue in Buffalo, NY 14203.
Outside Erie County: call your nearest DEC Regional Wildlife Office.
- New York State Wildlife Rehabilitators (NYSWRC)
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