Inappropriate possession of wildlife is a growing problem. It often starts with good intentions. Someone sees an injured or orphaned animal and wants to render assistance. They give it food, water, and provide it with a safe place away from harsh weather and predators. Depending on the age and condition of the animal, they may even choose to keep the animal, thinking it will make a good pet and companion.
What they don’t realize is that their actions may actually cause the animal harm and greatly decrease the chances of its survival.
Here’s why: injured and orphaned animals need more comprehensive care than most people can offer in their homes. There are a hundred different things that could be wrong and only a few that would be obvious to the casual observer. Wildlife rehabbers use many tools to assess, treat, and stabilize an animal. They also have equipment, medicine, and other veterinary resources to which people at home do not have access.
“We never advise anyone to care for a wild animal on their own. Wild animals don’t make good pets,” says Mary Ashley Laine, City Wildlife Veterinarian. “Taking in a baby wild animal is very different than adopting a puppy or kitten. Wild animals may become habituated to humans, but they will never stop being wild animals. Most people are not equipped to handle that, and attempting to do so is detrimental, and often fatal, to the animal.”
Many wild animals that are raised by humans are fed improperly or do not get the nutrition they need. Consequently, they may die, get sick, or develop long-term developmental issues as they grow older. At a certain point, the animal may become too sick or too uncontrollable for the human to handle, and they will bring it to a wildlife rehabilitator.
At that point, there may not be much that can be done. Malnutrition often causes permanent damage. It can affect many different organs and result in neurological issues, metabolic bone disease, and many other life threatening disorders. Even if the animal is healthy, it may be habituated to humans. Once habituated, an animal can not be released, because it does not have the skills to survive in the wild. It may not know how to find food and shelter, avoid predators, or even understand what to do when it is outside. These animals often have to be euthanized.
The best way to support injured and orphaned wildlife is to bring them to licensed wildlife professionals who can give them the care they need.
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