Last updated: August 24. 2013 9:15AM - 378 Views

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Dr. April ShattuckThis time of year families are increasingly active and spending more time outdoors enjoying all that summer has to offer. With this comes the chance of encountering wildlife and potentially wildlife orphans. Most people are good-hearted and want to help these little creatures by rescuing them, raising them as pets or attempting to re-release them into the wild. Before you decide to bring those adorable critters into your home, there are a few things you should know.Native wildlife are protected, and therefore illegal to possess unless you have a permit from the Division of Wildlife. Wildlife may only be purchased from a legal propagator who has a license to breed these animals in captivity and can confirm that they are free of diseases. These laws are in place for your safety as well as that of the animals.Not only is it illegal to bring these animals into your home, they are extremely difficult to care for. I remember when I was a teenager, running over a nest of wild rabbits with the riding lawn mower. After the guilt subsided, our family felt obligated to care for the four younglings. Despite our best efforts, all but one died, most likely due to the stress of handling and inappropriate care.Looking back, we did a huge disservice to those little rabbits by not leaving them alone. The best option would have been to move the baby rabbits to a safer, hidden area on our property. Despite moving the nest and leaving our scent on them, the mother rabbit would have returned to feed them in the evening. Wildlife parents are devoted to their young and rarely abandon them, unless the parent is injured or dead. The lonely fawn hidden in the grass, the single gosling in the pond, or the baby bird fallen out of the tree are not necessarily abandoned. Doe leave their fawns hidden to protect them, geese will return if a gosling straggles behind, and a mother bird will still feed a fledgling on the ground. Unless you notice the animal is injured with a broken wing or leg, or has a wound or is bleeding, please leave these animals alone.By handling these animals, you also put yourself at risk of the diseases they may carry. Rabies is a serious, real threat in Ohio that can affect any mammal, including people and domestic pets. Raccoons, skunks and bats are the most common wildlife to carry and transmit rabies in Ohio. If you notice an animal acting strangely (confused, aggression without provocation, or wandering during the day), these animals may be sick and should not be handled. Call the Sherriff's office where they will have an updated list of nuisance trappers in your county. Raccoons commonly carry an intestinal roundworm called Baylisascaris procyonis. These worms are transferrable to humans, especially children, where it may cause blindness, central nervous system damage and death. Other diseases wildlife may carry are distemper, leptospirosis, salmonella, cryptosporidium, in addition to ticks and fleas. All of these diseases and parasites are very dangerous to you and your pets. There are ways you can prevent orphaning wildlife. Control and leash your pets so they do not attack wild animals. Educate your children to respect wildlife, leaving them in their habitat and not harassing them. Check trees and brush for nests before cutting them down. Cover chimneys, window wells and vents to prevent animals from nesting there. Lastly, exercise caution when driving, especially at dawn and dusk. If you find an injured wild animal or know for a fact that an animal has been orphaned, contact the Allen County Wildlife Officer, Craig Barr, at 419-429-8379. If possible, do not handle the animal to prevent injury to yourself and to avoid stressing the animal. If you must move the animal to a safer spot, wear gloves and place it in a warm, dark area until the animal can be transferred to the custody of a wildlife rehabilitator. Do not plan on raising these orphans on your own. Wild animals require special care and feeding that is beyond what the average household is capable of providing. Only a licensed wildlife rehabilitator can legally care for native wildlife animals. Leave it to the professionals to decide what the best course of action should be for the animal, which may not include any human involvement. Humans should always be considered a young wild animal's last hope for survival, not its best hope. List of wildlife rehabilitatorsCathy Heistand reptiles and amphibians, 419-339-1188Laura Daggerhart orphan squirrels and rabbits only, 513-875-3433Elizabeth Ross endangered birds of prey, 937-767-7648Nancy Mabrey neonate (newborn) mammals, 419-673-1977Kelly Rowland mammals only, 419-509-8283Dr. April Shattuck works part-time at Delphos Animal Hospital.

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