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The Dos and Don'ts of Wildlife Encounters

deer - wildlife

Wildlife encounters can be magical moments, allowing us to leave behind our busy lives in the concrete jungle and witness the stunning diversity and beauty of nature.

Unfortunately, not every instance of human interaction with nature is benign. Curiosity and compassion can lead us to get far too close to wild animals, jeopardizing the safety and wellbeing of all parties involved. Even well-intentioned good samaritans can cause harm by moving animals in a misguided attempt to rescue them, unintentionally resulting in mortality.

As a general rule and when in doubt, it is always best to leave wildlife alone unless the animal is in imminent danger and requires immediate assistance. In such instances, contacting an experienced wildlife vet or rehab center should be the first step.

If you have found injured or sick wildlife in New York, New Jersey or Connecticut, here are some helpful resources.

FAQs about interacting with wildlife:

  1. Is it legal to capture and sell wild animals? While we can assume that most people would not knowingly attempt to profit from the illicit trade of wildlife, anyone tempted to is liable to face severe legal consequences. It is strictly illegal to poach, sell or possess certain protected species and trafficking any wild animal violates both state and federal law in many parts of the United States.

  2. Are pet stores or breeders allowed to sell wild animals? While there are many species of exotic animals that are allowed to be sold and kept as pets, animals caught in the wild and those not on the list of permitted pets may not be sold by pet stores or breeders. Pet stores and breeders selling illegally-owned or obtained animals should be reported to the authorities. If you live in New York City, you can contact 311.

  3. Can I keep an animal I found in the wild as a pet? It is not uncommon for people to encounter a friendly wild animal and believe they can take it home as a pet. In most cases, it is illegal to keep wildlife in captivity without a permit. Wild animals usually require highly specialized care that most individuals cannot provide inside their home. Check this list of legal species of pets in New York City. If you are in possession of an illegal animal, you may surrender them to an Animal Care Center of NYC facility without facing prosecution or any other legal ramifications.

  4. Am I allowed to help a wounded or trapped wild animal? Approaching an animal that already feels threatened could be dangerous to you. Rather than intervening, it is best to contact a professional for help, as long as there is time to do so. (At LIBEVC, we do not accept wild animals from the general public, but we do care for wounded wild animals that are brought to us through organizations. Here’s a list of rescue centers to contact if you find a wild animal in need.) Wild animals that pose a threat to people should be reported to the police and/or animal control, while wildlife rehabilitation groups should be contacted if you encounter a wounded or illegally trapped wild animal. Informing these experts of such wildlife encounters helps ensure the safest and healthiest outcome for everyone involved.

Wild animals are an incredible and intriguing part of the natural world. Seeing them can be an awe-inspiring experience and may even arouse curiosity or a strong desire to interact with them from up close. Don’t forget, however, that this is rarely the best course of action for the animals.

Unsure which pet would be the best match for your home and family? We’re happy to offer some ideas! Give us a call.

Want more? Here’s what to do if you have an exotic pet emergency.

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