Injured and Orphaned Wildlife

​Keep the “Wild” in Wildlife

Avoid the temptation to “rescue” a fawn or other baby animal from the wild. You just might be taking it away from its mother.

There are a number of reasons why it’s illegal to keep native wildlife as a pet in Kentucky.

A deer raised by humans poses potential health and safety risks to people and other animals. A mature deer that has learned to rely on people for food can become aggressive toward people and become a nuisance.

See the law:

Spreading Wildlife Disease

People who keep native wild animals as pets risk spreading a variety of diseases to the truly wild animals in the area.

One example is chronic wasting disease (CWD). Kentucky Fish and Wildlife remains on guard against this always-fatal neurological disease - which affects deer, elk, moose and caribou. CWD has already been found in 26 states and most of the states bordering Kentucky. However, it has not been detected in Kentucky.

One of the leading ways CWD is spread is through the movement of deer. Therefore, when Kentucky Fish and Wildlife discovers an illegally held deer, it must be confiscated and euthanized. There are simply too many risks.

When a deer has lost its fear of people and biologists cannot be certain of where the animal came from or what it has been exposed to, the department cannot release that animal into the wild or place it with a zoo. To do otherwise would be irresponsible and put Kentucky’s wild deer and elk herds and other wild and domesticated animals at risk.

Removing other species of wild animals and moving them elsewhere also increases the risks of spreading diseases such as tularemia in rabbits, distemper in raccoons, chytridiomycosis in amphibians and more.

When in doubt, leave wildlife alone

Wildlife biologists recommend leaving alone wildlife that appear to be abandoned. While well-intentioned people may believe they are helping an animal by “rescuing” it, they may be doing more harm than good.

This is because baby wildlife found in the wild are virtually always not really abandoned. White-tailed deer, rabbits, and other species of wildlife leave their young for extended periods of time each day, only to return and take care of them.

Many bird species can only learn to fly by experimentation. This includes falling out of the nest. If a person discovers a young mammal or bird, they should not handle it and should keep children and pets away from it. Staying away from the young animal reduces stress on the animal and increases the likelihood that the mother will return to care for it.

In many cases, a wild animal removed from the wild does not live long. People are no substitute for natural wildlife parents. Not only is the practice detrimental to wildlife, holding nativ wildlife in captivity is against the law. Unless the wildlife is obtained from a legal source and a Captive Wildlife Permit is obtained in advance, 301 KAR 2:081 prohibits holding native wildlife as a pet.

Injured animals

While biologists recommend leaving injured wildlife alone, people do have the option of contacting a permitted wildlife rehabilitator for assistance. Rehabilitators can also provide assistance where the mother animal is confirmed dead, such as a road-killed deer. At no time should a person “adopt” a fawn as a pet.

Remember that wildlife do not make good pets and should be left where found. If you see young wildlife alone, leave it be. Nature has a way of taking care of its own.


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