A consistent problem wildlife rescues face is the public keeping the wild animals they
find instead of seeking help from experienced rehabbers. We have addressed this issue
before, and it is a continuous struggle to educate folks on why it is a bad idea to keep an
animal if you have no experience or knowledge about their needs.
Finders tend to bond quickly to the animals they find. We jokingly call this Walt Disney
Syndrome. We understand the emotional need to save and care for a helpless animal.
What we need the public to understand is wildlife requires special care and sometimes
special permits to even have possession of that animal.
We have had several recent intakes that were kept by the finders for several days before
being surrendered. Many were only surrendered after the animals became ill, most
likely from improper care. We spend a lot of time and funds correcting problems that
could have been prevented if we were contacted when the animals were first found.
Finders have good intentions. Most say they kept the animals because they felt a need
to protect them and did not want them to die. We get that…but in this day and age a
wildlife rehabber is usually just a phone call away. Giving the baby to a rescue ensures
the animal will receive proper care AND will most likely able to be released back into the
wild. We are trained to know what’s best for the species in our care.
Keeping wildlife is a big responsibility. Once the animal imprints or becomes human
habituated releasing it into the wild will not be an option. Most wildlife species learn
how to be wild by growing up with others of its own species. If an animal grows up with
humans, it becomes desensitized to the dangers other humans could pose if its released.
We get countless calls about adult squirrels who were obviously released pets that are
fearless of humans. These animals sometimes get aggressive when people do not feed
them. They do not understand why a new person is not as accommodating as the one
who raised them.
If you choose to keep wildlife, it is yours forever. Although some places advertise they
are wildlife sanctuaries, there are no regulated wildlife sanctuaries in South Carolina
where you can take pet wildlife to live happy and free. Places that claim to be sanctuaries
are not inspected and do not have any regulations to follow that make sure animals
receive proper care. Zoos do not take in native wildlife. Domesticated animal shelters are not
equipped to handle wildlife.
The saddest part is most found wildlife does not need to be rescued. Wild animals do
not stay with their young. Finders react emotionally and pick up fawns or fledgling
birds or a number of other species and then refuse to return them when we explain why
this is the best option.
The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources has proposed new legislation to
help keep wildlife wild. We fully support these changes and hope having laws to back up
what we do will help the public understand the importance of contacting a wildlife
rehabber before rescuing an animal. This is not to punish the public, but to keep
wildlife in safe situations and to keep people safe, too.
REMINDERS THIS BABY SEASON
Birds: Baby birds do not know how to fly as soon as they jump from their nests. A baby bird
must fledge the nest and live on the ground for several days. The parents will continue
to care for the baby until it learns to fly. Some birds nest on the ground. A baby bird
does not need to be rescued unless it has had contact with a cat, has obvious injuries or
is covered in ants. Birds cannot be rescued just because you are concerned for their
safety. Songbirds and Birds of Prey are federally protected and can only be kept by
people or organizations who are federally permitted for those species.
Fawns: Deer do not stay with their young. Fawns are “parked” in an area and the
mother watches from a safe distance. You will not see or hear the mother if you
approach the fawn. The fawn will not run away. Fawns are super skinny the first
several weeks of life and people often mistake this for malnourishment. A fawn does not
need to be rescued unless it is found with a dead Doe, has obvious injuries or is laying in
an unnatural (flat not curled up) position. In SC it is unlawful to take and keep a fawn
unless you do so under the guidance of SC DNR or a wildlife rehabber that is permitted
All Species: It is important to remember that all species of wildlife can carry diseases
that could be transmitted to humans and pets. In recent years we have seen increased
numbers of confirmed rabies cases in domesticated animals and wildlife. Huge
outbreaks of distemper in both wild and domesticated animals continue to plague our
state as well. Parasites from wild animals can also be transmitted to people and pets,
too. Do not risk unnecessarily exposing your family or pets.
Wildlife rescues like ours are eager to help. We answer calls each day
and do our best to assist when possible. Our organization is 100% volunteer based and
we do what we do because it is our passion. If you need to contact us, phone or text is
best. We respond to calls not in the order received but by the importance of the call, so
this means details are very important when leaving a message. We are grateful to live in
a community that supports what we do!