RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - The Richmond Wildlife Center says people are doing more harm than good by trying to care for baby animals they think are orphaned.
Melissa Stanley, founder of The Richmond Wildlife Center, says "helping" these animals could put yourself and the animal at risk
"Just like we have things to do and have to get a babysitter. Wildlife, they don't hire babysitters. They leave their young, and they have to learn to fend for themselves, to find cover, and blend in with the environment," Stanley said.
This time of year, Stanley says the Wildlife Center is inundated with calls from people concerned that the baby fawn, bird, or rabbit in their yard has been orphaned. However, the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries says 75 percent of those "rescued" animals should have been left alone.
Stanley says deer leave their fawns for up to 14 hours. She also says birds leave their young for 45 minutes at a time.
"If you come across a baby bird that is on the ground but is unable to fly, it's probably okay. They live on the ground for seven to 14 days," said Stanley.
Stanley says many people mean well - thinking they are helping - but it can actually do more harm than good. Not only is keeping wildlife as a pet against the law, but it can expose people to diseases and parasites. It also hinders the animals chance at survival.
"There are things we cannot do that their parents can. We can't teach them where to migrate. We can't teach them all those amazing calls to communicate with their species so they can integrate and survive. So they really need to stay out with their parents," said Stanley.
According to Stanley, there are some signs of distress - for example, if the animal is approaching people, incessantly crying, or covered in flies, and ticks.
If the animal is injured, there are ways to help, but Stanley says to to call a wildlife specialist first.
"Find a shoe box or container. Poke holes in the top, and put a tee shirt or an old pillow case in it, because towels can break their little toes, and just put them in a dark, quiet location," she said.
The wildlife center says there are some animals you should never approach, such as eagles, hawks, owls, adult raccoons, coyotes and groundhogs, which all pose a safety risk.
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