For the love of your pet: Abandoned baby animals may not need rescuing
By Shana Bohac
Springtime is baby season for wildlife. Many people often rescue an orphaned animal that may not need rescuing. If at all possible, do not rescue wildlife. State and federal laws protect nearly all wild mammals and birds. It is against the law to possess the animal or bird without a special permit.
Dietary needs of each species of animal are different, and it is almost impossible to replicate their nutritional needs in captivity. Just for clarification, it is not true that mammals and birds will always reject their young once they have been handled by humans.
This does not mean that you should handle a wild animal unnecessarily. It is best to keep contact to a minimum because it is stressful on the animal, and human scent can attract predators.
You may find baby birds that fell from their nest. It is best to leave these offspring alone. Parents are likely to be close by and in visual or auditory contact with their offspring. If you find a blown-down nest, you can carefully replace it into the tree that it fell from or a nearby tree.
The parents should come back and tend to the nest. Abandoned deer fawns are commonly encountered. Mother deer frequently leave their fawns bedded down while they are off foraging. If the fawn is not crying, covered in fire ants or has visible wounds, then it should be left alone.
Never pick up or touch a wild animal or bird with your bare hands. Only adults should handle wildlife. Wild animals carry serious diseases. Rabies can be spread by an infected animal. Skunks, foxes, raccoons, coyotes and bats are animals at high risk of contracting and spreading rabies.
Low-risk animals include squirrels, rabbits, rats, opossums and other mammals. Leptospirosis can be transmitted to humans by direct contact with an infected animal's urine or by urine-contaminated soil, food or water. Tularemia can be found in animals such as rabbits, prairie dogs and deer. Salmonella is commonly found in the digestive tract of reptiles, particularly iguanas and turtles.
Giardia can be spread by contact with wildlife stools or ingestion of infected water. Hantavirus can be found in the feces, saliva and urine of wild rodents. Baylisascaris procyonis can be transmitted by contact with infected raccoon feces.
Do not give the animal any food or liquids. Feeding the animal an incorrect diet can be fatal. If the captured animal gets food and water stuck to its feathers or fur, this could potentially lead to low body temperature and death.
Keep the animal in a warm, dark and quiet place. You can use a heating pad set on low to keep the area warm. You will want to leave the animal alone because the situation is very stressful.
Remember that caring for wild animals can be difficult, if not impossible. All babies do grow up, and their instinctive behavior will take over. Capturing wild animals threatens their survival skills once they are released into the wild. They are less likely to be able to care for themselves properly.
If you have any questions about wildlife, please contact your local game warden or the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department at 1-800-792-1112.
Dr. Shana Bohac has a veterinary practice at Hillcrest Animal Hospital in Victoria. She works on both small animals and equine patients. Submit questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.