“Put the baby bunny back.” Why you shouldn’t approach baby animals

Digital Originals

Springtime is the busiest time of the year for Raven Ridge Wildlife Center.

“Everything is having babies,” says Tracie Young, the center’s rehabber. But this year is shaping up to be a bit unusual.

“We are just booming with baby foxes. Last year it was skunks, this year it was foxes. We have eight foxes here right now, we have about ten baby great-horned owls.”

Why so many foxes and owls is anybody’s guess. If Tracie tends to use the word “about” when talking numbers, it’s because the critter count changes constantly. She showed us one of her patients, a baby fox with an injury on her chin. “She had a wound here, but it’s healing nicely,” she says. Many of the animals come in with some sort of injury. “They find themselves in trouble, hit by cars, cat attacks, dog attacks, and that’s when they come to us.” Other times it can be because the babies have lost their parents, or been abandoned for some reason.

The animals are usually found by people just going about their usual routine. “It’s springtime, a bit warmer, they’re doing yard work, they’re taking trees down, and this is when these baby animals are found,” says Tracie.

The animals at the rescue need to be here. But here’s the thing-not every baby animal people find is lost or abandoned.

“A lot of times, especially with deer, the mom will go forage somewhere else because they don’t want to attract predators to the babies,” says Tracie. “The parents see you, you don’t always see them.”

So before you try to rescue an animal that may not need rescuing, it’s a good idea to get in touch with a rehabber. This time of year, Tracie and her volunteers spend a lot of time on the phone, talking to people who have found an animal, and want to know what they should do.

“That’s why we’re here,” says Tracie. “We can talk the public through, what to do, how to re-nest, or does the animal in fact need to come in.”

Modern technology can make the process a lot easier. It may be a cliche, but sometimes a picture really is worth a thousand words.

“It’s wonderful with cell phones because they can send pictures,” says Tracie. “A lot of the time these animals can be returned, left alone, a human doesn’t have to get involved with it, can leave it alone, and the stress of riding in a car, they don’t have to do that now.”

If the animal does need to be transported, Tracie can give them directions to the rescue center. (After a series of unpleasant episodes involving people banging on the door at two A.M., or just leaving an animal on the porch unannounced, Raven Ridge removed their physical address from their website and Facebook page, and replaced it with a post office box.)

And in case you’re inclined to go it alone and take care of an animal yourself or are even tempted to adopt it as part of your family, Tracie has a few words of warning.

“It is illegal in Pennsylvania to have, to raise, or keep any wildlife at all,” she says. “A lot of these animals have parasites, internal and external parasites, some zoonotic, which means you can get them, anything from worms, fleas, ticks, even rabies.”

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