With spring mowing season underway and having fielded recent calls from people who have found what they believe are abandoned baby rabbits, The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control’s Division of Fish and Wildlife would like to remind well-meaning wildlife watchers not to “rescue” young wild animals.
Young Eastern cottontail rabbits, in particular, may appear to be alone, since their mothers often temporarily leave their ground nests to avoid attracting predators, returning only to feed the young.
“Before handling or moving any wildlife species, contact the Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife and speak to a trained wildlife biologist. We can help you determine whether the animal needs help or should be left alone,” said Wildlife Biologist Joe Rogerson, Division of Fish and Wildlife. “This will not only help ensure your safety, but also help to ensure the best possible outcome for the animal.”
Precautions to take with both juvenile and adult wild animals:
Watch young animals who seem to be alone from a distance; mother could return in several hours or at any minute.
Some wild animals can be unpredictable and sometimes dangerous, especially if they are in pain. They also can carry parasites or illnesses that can affect people and their pets, such as rabies. Anyone who must handle any wild animal should wear gloves and use extreme care.
Remember that it is illegal to raise or keep any wild animal in Delaware.
“In almost every case, wild animals should be left where they are found. The hard truth is, if you take a young animal from the wild, you are almost certainly ensuring its death,” said licensed wildlife rehabilitator Dawn Webb. “While you may see a baby animal alone, what you don’t see is its mother, who is most likely nearby, waiting for you to move on. The bottom line is, if you care, leave them there.”
For more information, call DNREC’s Wildlife Section at 302-739-9912.