Hiking hoosiers, birdwatchers, farmers and anyone else who spots sick or injured wildlife can contact local rehabilitation clinics for help, but there are a few things to know before you pick up the phone. or an animal.
There are 59 licensed wildlife rehabilitators in Indiana who work with the goal of helping sick or injured animals recover so they can be released back into the wild. A comprehensive list, on the Department of Natural Resources website, has contact details for each local rehab center, so check there to find the one closest to you.
Here is a quick list of things to consider when reporting counseling according to local Indiana rehabilitation centers.
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Single children cannot be abandoned
This tops the warning list of many rehabbers, and the DNR also notes that apparently abandoned animals are most likely still in adult care.
Adults may have gone out for food and not returned if anyone is near the young, the DNR website says. Human scent can alert predators that young prey may be nearby. It can also disrupt the reproductive cycle to remove young from nests, so it is best to observe from a distance and call a rehabber before attempting any sort of rescue.
The United States Fish and Wildlife Service warns that 90% of animals taken from the wild will not survive and recommends action if the following conditions are observed:
- The animal is obviously injured, bleeding or has a broken bone
- He’s covered in fly eggs
- He’s been crying for more than a day
- He looks weak and is lying on his side
- A pet or other animal attacked him
Let the professionals take the lead
The dietary needs of each animal can be very different and professionals have specific training in knowing which foods are suitable for which animal.
Rehabilitators at WildCare in Bloomington warn that no wild animal should be given cow’s milk because lactose can be fatal for most infants. The rehab website says much of the wildlife brought to the clinic have been injured by improper captive care.
To increase the chances of survival, specific housing, handling and feeding needs must be met for each animal.
Keep the animal where it is, if possible
First and foremost, wildlife can have disease-carrying pests or parasites. It is important to bring your pets inside and not to use bare hands if picking up the sick or injured animal is unavoidable.
Animals will not reject their young if they sense humans have handled it, but picking up wild animals is stressful for them and should be kept to a minimum. Call a rehabber before attempting to pick up or move an animal.
If an animal must be handled, WildCare recommends keeping it in a warm, quiet place, preferably in a box lined with towels, pillowcases, t-shirts, or tissue paper.
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Report an unknown illness or death
Although MNR does not provide rehabilitation services, it does collect and track information online about wildlife that appear sick or dead without apparent cause.
To keep humans, livestock, and wildlife safe, state officials must be aware of any emerging outbreaks. The department monitors them via an online reporting tool:
Researchers are interested in recurrent deaths in the same location, individual deer showing signs of chronic wasting disease (emaciation, staggering or standing with poor posture, excessive salivation), individual deer showing signs of epizootic hemorrhagic disease (death in or near water, loss of appetite and wariness, swelling around the head and neck, pink or bluish color of the mouth and tongue) and incidents involving threatened or endangered species.
Do not keep wildlife as pets
Wildlife is meant to be wild, and if a young animal becomes habituated to humans, it cannot be reintroduced into the wild. Animals are also active and independent and can become destructive as they age.
It is illegal in Indiana to keep native wildlife without a permit for any reason. Most native species are protected by state and federal laws.
Karl Schneider is an IndyStar environmental journalist. You can reach him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @karlstartswithk
The IndyStar Environmental Reporting Project is made possible through the generous support of the non-profit Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust.
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