HOW TO HELP
WILDLIFE IN NEED
FIND LOCAL WILDLIFE REHABBERS.
Animal Help Now, through their website www.ahnow.org and free iPhone and Android apps, leverages digital technologies to immediately connect people involved with wildlife emergencies or conflicts with experts who can help.
Consider downloading their app with a nationwide network of wildlife rehabbers so you'll have it before you need it!
Before you attempt to help wildlife, there are few things you should know. Some of the species below are Rabies Vector Species (raccoons, foxes, skunks, coyotes, bobcats, otters, goundhogs, bats, etc.) This means that they can carry and transmit the rabies virus – even without having any symptoms. Rabies is carried in infected saliva which can be spread through an open wound or mucous membranes such as the eyes, nose or mouth. If left untreated, rabies in humans is 100% fatal. Treatment for rabies exposure involves a series of potentially expensive vaccines which may not be covered by most insurance companies. Also, if a rabies vector species bites a human, that animal must be euthanized for testing. In addition to rabies, there are other diseases carried by wildlife which may potentially pass to humans or pets. We do not encourage anyone to handle wildlife without the understanding that there is a risk. Always consult with a licensed wildlife rehabber.
If you find an injured or ill adult raccoon, contact a licensed rehabber near you immediately.
If you find a baby raccoon baby, or “kit” that appears injured or ill, contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator immediately. If the baby appears healthy but alone, it isn't necessarily orphaned. It is common for members of a litter to stray from the mother while she sleeps during the day or forages at night. A baby raccoon out and about could have been scampering around with siblings or mother only moments before your arrival. If you have found a baby raccoon and it looks healthy, clean and plump, please do not immediately remove it from where you found it. If the mother is going to find her baby, she will do so within a few hours.
In the meantime, the raccoon kit should be offered some protection until the mother returns. Raccoons are a Rabies Vector Species (RVS). Please wear gloves when handling a raccoon, no matter the age. This is for your protection from disease and bites, not because the mother will abandon it if she smells your scent (that is a myth). A box with high sides will prevent the baby from wandering off. A partial top on the container will ensure that the mother can retrieve the kit while offering protection from the weather and birds of prey. A warm water bottle or uncooked rice in a sock heated in the microwave make good temporary and portable heat sources to keep the baby warm. When introducing heat please be sure it is not too hot, and that the baby can move away from it if needed. Baby animals are very sensitive to temperature.
Do not attempt to feed or offer any food to the animal. A hungry kit is a noisy kit, and noisy kit will make it easier for its mother to locate and retrieve it. Also, many human foods can cause illness.
If you return to check on the baby and it is still in the same location, you can assume it is orphaned. At this stage, to provide the kit with the strongest chances of survival, a wildlife rehabilitator should be called. Please do not attempt to raise a baby yourself. In many states, including Mississippi, it is illegal to keep wildlife as pets.
If you find an injured or ill adult bird, contact a local wildlife rehabber immediately. Do not handle, move, or feed the bird without guidance. If the bird is in a life-threatening location or situation, or if you have to leave it, temporarily cover it with a cardboard box or laundry basket. Shorebirds (herons, pelicans, egrets, etc.) and raptors (hawks, eagles, owls, etc.) can be very dangerous for humans to handle and require special care. If you find a baby bird, please follow the flow chart below.
If you can approach a wild adult rabbit, it is either injured or ill. Contact a licensed rehabber near you immediately.
If you find a baby rabbit that appears healthy, it may have wandered from a nearby nest. Please attempt to find the nest and return the baby. Do not worry about getting your scent on the baby and its mother rejecting it. This is a common myth.
If you accidentally uncover a rabbit nest and the babies appear healthy, please return the covering and leave the nest alone. Also, do not worry if you don't see the mother. She only visits her nest once or twice a day to nurse her young and will do so only when she is certain that there is no danger.
If a baby rabbit is injured, is covered in ants, maggots or fly larvae, or has been in a pet’s mouth, please contact a local rehabber immediately. You may place the animal in a small box with a lid and air holes. Set the box on top of ½ of a heating pad on the lowest setting and keep it in a quiet place. Rabbits are very susceptible to stress. Please do not try to raise the rabbit yourself. In many states, including Mississippi, it is illegal to keep wild animals as pets.
If you find an opossum laying on its side with a gaping mouth but there are no obvious signs of injury, leave the animal alone for a few hours. Opossums “play dead” when they are frightened to fool predators, including humans. Other signs of “playing ‘possum” include stiffness, glazed eyes, drool, tongue lolling to the side, and smelly green discharge from the rear end.
If there is no change in behavior after a few hours, if there are obvious injuries, if it is covered in ants, maggots, or it has been in a pet’s mouth, contact a wildlife rehabber immediately. Do not handle, move or feed an adult opossum without guidance. If its in a life-threatening location or situation, or you have to leave it, temporarily cover it with a cardboard box or a laundry basket. Adult opossums have very sharp teeth and can bite if threatened.
If you find a baby opossum, either it has fallen off of its mother’s back or the mother may be deceased nearby and the youngster has crawled out of her pouch. If you find only one opossum, look carefully as there may be brothers and sisters nearby. If an opossum is less than eight (8) inches in length (not including the tail), it may not survive on its own and will need a wildlife rehabber. All opossums less than eight inches long separated from their mother are considered orphans because she will not return or care for them.
If you find a dead opossum on or near a road, it is possible that it is a female with babies in her pouch. Contact a local wildlife rehabber to let them know of the location so that they can come and check for babies. Or, if you are comfortable, check to see if it is a mother yourself. Females have a distinct pouch, while males have obvious testicles. If it is a female and there are live babies in the pouch, you may carefully pull them off.
Place the orphaned opossum(s) in a shoe-sized box with air holes in the lid. Set the box on ½ of a heating pad set to low and contact a local wildlife rehabber. Do not attempt to feed or offer any food to the animal(s). Many human foods can cause illness to wildlife. Also, opossums are very specialized feeders that are not physically able to nurse on a bottle of any size. Please DO NOT keep the animal to care for yourself. There is much skill required to successfully rehabilitate an opossum. It is also illegal to keep wildlife as pets in most states, including Mississippi.
If you are able to approach a wild adult squirrel, there is something wrong with it. Call a local wildlife rehabber immediately. Do not handle, move, or feed an adult squirrel without guidance. If it is in a life-threatening location or situation, or if you have to leave it, temporarily cover it with a cardboard box or a laundry basket while you call for assistance.
If you find a juvenile or baby squirrel that appears healthy, warm, and just out of place, it is always best to see if the mother squirrel will return for it. A small, open-top box or basket nailed to the tree trunk or hung on a branch near where the squirrel was found works well. A source of warmth is equally important while you wait. A sock filled with uncooked rice, then microwaved until warm can serve as a great temporary heat source, but please be sure the baby can move away from it as needed.
A mother squirrel should return for her baby within two to three hours. She will carry smaller babies back to a nest in her mouth while larger larger ones may be coaxed to follow her. Please note that gray and fox squirrels are active in the day, while flying squirrels are out and about at night. If attempting to reunite grey or fox squirrels at dusk or after dark, bring them inside until morning. If reuniting a flying squirrel, keep the baby inside during the day and return it that evening. This protects the babies from predators and allows you to keep them warm until their mother is active and likely to retrieve them.
While indoors, place the baby squirrel in a secure box (a shoe box with air holes works great) halfway on a heating pad set on the lowest setting. Be very careful the baby does not overheat and keep it as isolated from the household as possible. Pets, children, noises, and bright lights will all be unnatural and very scary for the youngster. Contact a local wildlife rehabber as soon as possible for guidance. They may advise you to attempt to reunite with mother again or they may wish to take the animal into their care.
Please do not offer food unless otherwise directed by your local wildlife rehabber. Keep in mind that scared or injured animals - even babies, may bite. Wear gloves and use extreme care when handling any wild animal. Please DO NOT keep the animal to care for yourself. There is much skill required to successfully rehabilitate a squirrel. It is also illegal to keep wildlife as pets in most states, including Mississippi.
Eastern Gray Squirrel
If you are able to get close to an adult fox, it is injured or ill and needs the assistance of a wildlife rehabber as soon as possible. Do not attempt to catch or handle a fox without assistance or guidance. They are a Rabies Vector Species and can be very dangerous.
It is rare to stumble across truly abandoned fox babies or “kits.” Most of the time, humans working outside inadvertently uncover a den, either by moving an old woodpile or clearing brush. If the kits look healthy and plump and their coats appear in good condition they are probably not orphaned. You have disturbed their home while the mother is gone, but that does not mean she won’t return. If possible, stop working, leave the area, and give the mother the remainder of the day and night to reclaim and hopefully move her litter. If the kits look anything other than plump and healthy or they are straying further from the den with no evidence of mother, it’s time to call a wildlife rehabilitator. Do not offer food or attempt to raise the kits yourself. There is much skill required to successfully rehabilitate foxes. Also, it is illegal to keep wildlife as pets in most states, including Mississippi.
If you find any skunk that is injured or appears ill, contact a wildlife rehabber immediately. ALL skunks - no matter what age - can and will spray when scared or cornered. They can also bite and are a Rabies Vector Species. Capturing a skunk is best left to an experienced wildlife rehabilitator.
Any time that you find healthy-looking baby skunks with eyes open, wandering around alone, digging and playing with no parent anywhere to be seen, there is reason for concern. Quietly observe from a distance and allow a few hours for the mother to return. If she does not, call a wildlife rehabber for assistance.
If babies are super-tiny with their eyes-closed and are still in a den, the mother shouldn’t be too far away and it is best if they are left alone. If the mother is confirmed to be deceased, call a rehabber.
Bats are widely distributed throughout the U.S. with fifteen species found in Mississippi. Most are small and it is difficult to tell the difference between a juvenile and an adult unless the two are together. Any bat found on the ground is in need of assistance, regardless of age. Bats cannot get lift to fly if they have become grounded and might need assistance. However, bats are Rabies Vector Species, and special care must be taken to avoid exposure. It is best to contact a bat rehabber for guidance.
If you have found a grounded bat that doesn’t appear to be injured, carefully pick the bat up using thick leather gloves and/or a garden tool and place it at least six feet off the ground up in a tree or on a fence or other surface they can cling to. If the bat is unable to hold on, has been caught by a cat or dog or is unable to fly away (by morning) it will need rehabilitation as soon as possible.
Baby bats are sometimes discovered after a homeowner has taken it upon themselves to eliminate a bat "infestation". When adult bats are blocked from returning to a den (often an attic), people don’t think about the babies left behind. A day or so later, the orphans are discovered causing a ruckus. Also, orphaned bats are occasionally found in the woods where they have fallen from a roost. Under either of these circumstances a wildlife rehabilitator should be contacted for assistance as soon as possible. When contacting a rehabber for bats, please be patient. Bat care is highly specialized and it may take some time to find someone to help you. A great resource is Bat World Sanctuary
The U.S. is currently experiencing the threat of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in its deer, elk, and moose populations. CWD can affect animals of all ages and some infected animals may die without ever exhibiting any symptoms. If symptoms are displayed they could include drastic weight loss (wasting), stumbling, listlessness and other neurological symptoms. CWD is fatal to animals and there are no treatments or vaccines. To date, there have been no reported cases of human CWD infection however, some studies raise concerns that there may be a risk. In response to this threat, the state of Mississippi has adopted restrictions regarding contact with deer.
If you find a sick, injured or orphaned deer, please contact your nearest regional Mississippi Department of Wildlife Fisheries and Parks (MDWFP) office or 1-800-BE-SMART.
North Region (662) 563-6221 or 6222
Central Region (601) 859-3421
South Region (601) 783-2911