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Wildlife Rehabilitation
What to do if you find a sick or injured animal

The goal of wildlife rehabilitation is to release injured and orphaned wildlife safely back into the wild. Wildlife rehabilitators are individuals that have been granted Wildlife Rehabilitation permits in accordance with statute 10 V.S.A. § 5215(b) and regulation 10 V.S.A. App. § 9. Rehabilitators are committed individuals whose goal is to return wildlife to the wild as soon as possible with the highest ability to survive.

Vermont rehabilitators may legally possess and treat most common birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians with the exception of deer, moose, bear and wild turkey. Only two facilities in Vermont are authorized to accept Threatened & Endangered species.

Only licensed rehabilitators may legally care for wildlife. Rehabilitators have undertaken extensive training and invested significantly in their wildlife care facilities. These facilities are inspected regularly by the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department. Anyone interested in becoming a licensed wildlife rehabilitator is encouraged to talk with an established rehabilitator and to volunteer in order to gain an understanding of the time and commitment involved.

If you find a sick or injured animal...
For the wellbeing of all wildlife in the state and for your own safety, taking a wild animal into captivity is illegal. The public should not touch skunks, raccoons, foxes, or bats that appear in need.  Although all mammals can carry rabies, these animals have an extremely high likelihood of being positive for rabies when they appear in distress. People who handle rabies vector animals put themselves and their loved ones at risk for contracting an extremely dangerous and frequently fatal disease.

However, if you find a sick or orphaned animal, you can contact the nearest rehabilitator specializing in the species you’ve found. Be aware that a rehabilitator does not necessarily treat all types of wildlife, or may not have the ability to accept another animal. Call the rehabilitator first to find out which wildlife species he or she generally accepts BEFORE you try to capture or transport an animal for care.

Rehabilitators are usually unable to pick-up injured wildlife, but they can provide advice on the best procedures for safely collecting the animal and will offer directions to their facility.

If you care leave them there!
If you find a young animal or bird that appears to be abandoned, do not pick it up! Adult animals of many species, such as rabbits and owls, limit the number of daily visits to their young. This prevents predators from discovering the location of newborns or hatchlings. To increase the young’s chance of survival, leave the area immediately.

Birds do not possess a strong sense of smell, and will not reject a youngster placed back in the nest. Many backyard birds frequently outgrow their nest and leave days before they can fly. The parent birds will continue to care for their young, even away from the nest, so do not attempt to pick up the fledglings.

To protect young birds, keep cats and dogs away and/or move the chick to the nearest shrub or natural cover. Then leave the area and allow the parent birds to naturally respond to the food-begging calls of their young.

Never pick up a deer.
White-tailed deer fawns use their spotted coats as camouflage and remain motionless to avoid detection from potential predators, including humans. If you see a fawn curled up at the edge of a path or field, leave the area immediately and do not return. Your presence will prevent the doe from returning to her fawn for periodic nursing. While they may appear abandoned, they are not abandoned – the mother only returns a couple of times a day.  This is true even if the young animal appears hungry or seems to beg from you. 

Fawns removed from their natural habitat are not equipped for survival in the wild.  When deer are removed from the wild, they do not learn how to evade predators, find food, avoid humans, or find specific deer wintering grounds.

To learn more about wildlife rehabilitation, permit prerequisites and application procedures click here or call 802-828-1000. Also, Wild In Vermont Inc (PO 163, Underhill Center, VT 05490 or 802-899-1027) coordinates an apprentice program with several participating Vermont rehabilitators.

Find a licensed wildlife rehabilitator »

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fox kit Red Fox kit-Lamar USFWS

BE CAREFUL. Mammals—particularly foxes, raccoon, skunk, woodchuck, and bats—can transmit rabies. If you find one of these animals that you believe needs help call the Rabies Hotline at 1-800-4-RABIES. Do not attempt to touch the animal until after contacting the hotline and do not allow children, other people or pets to come in contact with the animal.

robin fledgling American Robin fledgling-Varner USFWS

deer fawn Deer fawn-Laroche VFWD
Wildlife rehabilitators are not authorized to accept deer fawns.

Interested in Becoming a Wildlife Rehabilitator? Learn more »

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