I found a wild baby animal! Can I keep it?
A frequent call I receive here at Back 2 the Wild Rehab is, "I have found an orphaned/injured wild animal." Followed by the questions: "What do I need to do with it?" "What can I feed it?" and the most dreaded question "Can I keep it?" This is where my job gets very tough because the answers I have to give are often not the ones that people want to hear. Telling people to put a baby bird back where they found it even though there may be cats in the neighborhood may not be what people like to hear or understand, but a baby bird has a better chance of surviving if you leave it with it's parents. We, as licensed wildlife rehabilitators, have to make some hard decisions, but they are always in the best interest of the wildlife.
People that find a wild animal are very excited about it and typically show it off to friends and family and share pictures too. Sooner or later one of those people or maybe a neighbor will not like it and call law enforcement.
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As a result, the illegal animal will most likely be confiscated and euthanized. You will have to pay a hefty fine and end up with an entry in your records.
Not to mention the heartbreak and devastation many folks go through because they have grown attached to the animal.
Wildlife laws are made not only to protect native wildlife, but to also protect the general public. In almost every case, keeping a wild animal is illegal. Native wildlife species are protected by state laws, federal laws, or both.
To keep a wild animal in captivity for any length of time, for any reason, requires a special permit. Most cities and many counties have passed local ordinances that prevent individuals from keeping wild animals in captivity. In Michigan, you must have a license.
Songbirds and birds of prey are protected by Federal law and have fines of $15,000 up and jail time. Nests and feathers of songbirds and raptors are protected as well.
Even as a baby, these animals can be carriers of a large number of zoonotic diseases and parasites communicable to humans and household pets. Diseases such as rabies, Lyme disease, roundworms and tuberculosis are just a few. If you or any member of your family is scratched or bitten, that animal is required to be euthanized and tested for rabies, because tests on live animals are not possible.
Wild animals are considered wild because they are species that have not been domesticated and therefore have a natural fear of everything that's physically bigger than them, including us, their biggest predator. It doesn't matter if you raised the animal from his first day of life, they have different instincts than domestic species.
This will become a factor as they mature into an animal that can be very hard to manage and very high maintenance. The cute baby animal you wanted to save with great intentions is now in danger of being confiscated, killed, relegated to living in a cage, or even harming someone.
There is also a tremendous and painful emotional separation that can occur - not just for you, but for the now confused animal! It just isn't fair and it derives from a selfish desire. We must think "long term".
People trying to help wild animals sometimes receive serious injuries. Many expect an animal to recognize their kind intentions and love and do everything in their power to convince the scared animal to not be afraid. Yet that fear is the key to their survival, instilled in their genes throughout evolution.
Sometimes young animals become imprinted and dependent up their human captors and if released back into the wild may become a nuisance or simply die because of the human interference in their lives that prevented them from learning critical survival skills.
In addition, wild animals deserve the best possible care which requires expert training and knowledge considering that each species has specialized needs. Orphans require individual diets and formulas to grow strong and healthy.
They need to learn survival skills, how to recognize and find food, recognize predators, how and where to establish their living quarters before they are released back into the wild. Most young animals need to be raised in the company of their own kind for proper social and behavioral development.
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A lot of folks who ended up caring for a wild animal had plans to release the animal once it is grown or has recovered from its injuries but where not able to do so because they have grown too attached and are not capable of putting the animal's needs before their own desires.
Wildlife rehabilitators however have an advantage when they return their residents to the wild - they have years of experience in letting go and are happy for the animal. It's a privilege to return nature's very own.
They are not ours. Wildlife rehabilitators do their job selflessly for the animals, not their own feelings, gain or entertainment.
Enjoy wildlife, but leave animals to their natural habitats. Not only for the animalís well being, but for human safety. Allow wild animals to live the way they were meant to live, wild and free.
To make a long answer short: No, you can't keep it! If you really care please learn how to help, when to help, and when maybe not to help. Sometimes "help" can be a death sentence.
Back 2 the Wild Rehab would like to thank RWR for the outstanding information that contributed to this page of my website.