On Baby Raccoon Question, Expert Advises To ‘leave Wildlife In The Wild’
An interesting question popped up recently on the “Mountain Top News Chatter’ Facebook group:
“Found a baby raccoon crossing road in golf course. Way too little to be away from its mom. What do I do?”
More than two dozen comments came back with all sorts of thoughts and advice on the situation. Many people said the proper response was to leave it alone or call the Pennsylvania Game Commission. A few people expressed a desire to keep the animal.
The original poster later said that she would call a Pocono wildlife refuge.
Springtime is a boom time for wild animal births, so people may more frequently encounter the animals, game commission spokesman Travis Lau said.
“The best solution most times is just to leave wildlife in the wild,” he said.
Wild animals generally have sharp teeth and claws that can injure humans, and they can transmit disease to humans, so handling them is usually not a good idea.
Raccoons carry an added risk because they can carry the rabies virus.
Besides the risks to humans, handling young wild animals isn’t good for the animals either, Lau said.
Although it depends on the length and the nature of contact between a person and animal, there is a risk of the animal becoming habituated to people.
“That spells trouble on every level in the foreseeable future for that animal,” Lau said.
The situation is slightly different if you encounter an animal that is obviously injured, or if you know it is abandoned because you’ve seen the parent get hit by a vehicle, for example. In that case, a good idea is to consider calling a regional game commission office. That will put you in touch with a game commission officer or a licensed wildlife rehabilitator who knows what to do and has experience dealing with a range of situations involving wild animals.
Some other things to consider when encountering a wild animal: an animal that might appear to be alone often has a mother nearby; also, it is illegal to take wildlife into captivity.
“There is a big difference between contacting a professional versus taking an animal into your home and garage and taking matters into own hand,” Lau said. “Rehabilitators are often able to put animals back into the wild and can do so without habituating them to people. When they are on the road to recovery and to a point where they can live on own, (the rehabilitators) have minimal direct contact with animals. So the animals are none the wiser, and that makes a big difference in the chances of a wild animal that is successfully released back into the wild.”
Contact the writer:
The regional office of the Pennsylvania Game Commission is in Dallas.
To contact the office, call 570-675-1143 or 570-675-1144.