As tempting as an apparent orphan animal may appear, it’s best left alone: Ga. DNR

By David Pendered

They may look cute and in need of care, but those seemingly orphan young critters should be left alone and certainly shouldn’t be brought into a home, according to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

deer, orphan

Although young wildlife may appear to be orphan, the state advises leaving the critters alone because their parents probably are nearby. Bringing wildlife into homes can expose humans and domestic pets to potential diseases. Credit: Georgia Department of Natural Resources

“In most instances, there is an adult animal a short distance away – even though you may not be able to see them,” said John Bowers, Wildlife Resources Division chief of game management. “Adult animals, such as deer, spend most of the day away from their young to reduce the risk of a predator finding the young animal.”

Children, especially, need to be warned to leave young wildlife alone. They may be tempted to bring small young animals home, thinking the animals are hurt or in danger.

DNR is adamant about cautioning children. The DNR statement puts the admonition in capital letters: “As another precautionary step, adults should instruct children to NEVER bring wildlife home.

In fact, state law prohibits the possession of most wildlife without a permit. The best thing to do when a seriously injured animal is discovered is to contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator, according to a statement from the DNR.

A list of licensed rehabilitators is available at (select “Special Permits” from the right hand side of the home page and scroll down to “Wildlife Rehabilitation”), according to the statement.

Georgia isn’t alone in recommending that apparent orphan animals be left alone.

The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries observes that:

cottontail rabbit

A cottontail rabbit may appear to be in need of care if it sits quietly for long periods of time. But this can be normal behavior. Credit:

  • “More than 75 percent of such orphans “rescued” every spring should have been left alone. Most wild animals are dedicated parents and will not abandon their young, but they do leave them alone for long periods of time while looking for food. Additionally, many behaviors that people may view as abnormal actually are not in wildlife, and people may do much more harm than good by attempting to catch them for rehabilitation. Unless one of these guidelines applies, leave wildlife alone.”

Bringing wildlife into a home can expose the household to a number of problems, according to the statement from the Georgia DNR.

Health risks can arise for both humans and domestic pets. Even wildlife that appears healthy can transmit life-threatening diseases, including rabies, and can carry parasites including roundworms, lice, fleas and ticks.

Some ticks can transmit troublesome diseases such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Southern tick associated rash illness, according to a statement from the DNR.

The state advises special precautions be taken if animals appear to be acting in an unusual manner. For instance, showing no fear of humans or dogs, or that is weaving or drooling. These are indications the animal may be afflicted with rabies, distemper or some other disease.

Pets, livestock and humans should be kept away from the area where the animal was observed, DNR advises. Residents who see such an animal should contact a county health department or the state Wildlife Resources Division.

The state’s advisory concludes:

  • “The two most important steps you can take to protect yourself and your pets from rabies is 1) get pets vaccinated and 2) avoid physical contact with wildlife.”

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

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