‘Tis The Season: Wildlife Should Remain Wild

Photo by Jeff Depew

Photo by Jeff Depew

Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) officials are experiencing an increase in the illegal removal of wildlife and wishes to remind people that not only is taking wildlife from nature unlawful, it can have harmful effects on humans, pets, and wildlife populations.

Animals most often taken include fawns, turtles, squirrels and baby raccoons.  Sometimes the intent is to care for a seemingly abandoned animal yet other times, it is simply out of the intent of making the animal a pet.

The most current major issue that TWRA is dealing with is that our regional offices are getting an overwhelming number of calls about “abandoned fawns” from people sincerely concerned with their well-being.  The vast majority of the time, a mother doe will leave her fawn in what she perceives to be a safe place and will return to care for it later.  Only if the mother is confirmed to be dead or the fawn is sick, injured, or has been observed alone for several days should the TWRA be notified.  Fawns are undoubtedly better off raised by their mother’s than being wrongfully removed from the wild and placed with a rehabilitator.

Removing any wild animal without proper permitting is illegal and it is most often to the detriment of wildlife.  Negative effects on humans and pets include the transmittal of parasites, bacteria such as salmonella, fungi and other wildlife diseases. Additionally, pets can pass these things to wildlife making it impossible for an animal to be returned to the wild.  “We’ve seen an increase in these cases and it makes us angry. Our mission is to protect wildlife and laws are in place not only for the protection of humans, but also animals,” stated Joe McSpadden, Hamilton County Wildlife Officer.  “Someone from the general public doesn’t know about wildlife disease or behavior and they’re causing dangerous situations.”

Moving wildlife or taking it into a home can even affect overall wildlife populations. One animal significantly affected is the, Eastern box turtle. “Turtles are long-lived, slow to reproduce animals. Removing just one can impact the population of an area. Distressed turtle populations take much longer to recover than other faster breeding animals,” stated Chris Simpson, Region III Wildlife Diversity Biologist. Additionally, some wildlife also have breeding site fidelity, meaning they will not reproduce unless they are in the area where they were born or typically reproduce.

If someone finds an obviously sick or injured wild animal they should contact a wildlife rehabilitator or call TWRA.  TWRA maintains a list by county of rehabilitators that can be found at tnwildlife.org.  Individuals that find what they believe to be an orphaned animal should leave the animal alone. The vast majority of the time, mothers collect their young. Even animals that have apparently fallen from a nest or tree are most often cared for by their mothers. In addition, laws forbid the movement of wildlife. A property owner that traps a nuisance animal cannot move the wild animal to another location. This law is in place to keep wildlife disease from spreading to unaffected populations.

Should someone know of an individual removing wildlife or harboring wildlife illegally, they should call their regional TWRA office. “There is absolutely no reason for anyone to have a wild animal in their home,” stated wildlife officer McSpadden.  “Please help us with our mission and leave wildlife where it belongs.”

For more information regarding wildlife rehabilitators visit: http://www.tn.gov/twra/article/wildlife-rehabilitators-educators.