Baby Animals

Keeping baby wild animals at home is bad for THEM because…
  • Commercial milk replacement formulas, even those that claim to be adequate for use in wild species, are not designed for anything other than kittens and puppies. Natural milk varies substantially between species so it is unreasonable to expect that a single formulation will satisfy the nutritional requirements of multiple species. Providing the correct balance of protein, fat and carbohydrates is critical during growing periods in order to ensure proper development of bones, teeth, eyes and other organs. In addition, the percentage of sugars in natural milk is variable. Animals fed too high a concentration of sugar in a formula develop diarrhea, too low can cause constipation both can be fatal in a young animal. Baby birds require specially designed diets that range in type from strict vegetarian to pure carnivore depending on the species.
  • Much of what juvenile animals do, besides grow, is to learn about what is “normal.” They learn this by being exposed to things in their natural environment and by watching the behavior of their parents and siblings. If animals are deprived of their natural environment and interactions with others of their own species, they are not able to learn what they need to survive: how to find food, where to seek shelter, how to recognize and avoid predators, and how to play, fight and breed with members of their own species. Not only are we preventing them from learning what is “normal,” but we are also teaching them “abnormal” or inappropriate behaviors including that humans are a source of food and shelter.
Keeping baby wild animals at home is bad for YOU because…
  • Baby animals grow up to be adults and while juvenile animals often defend themselves by hiding or “freezing,” adult animals defend themselves by biting, scratching, and clawing. Even something as innocent looking as a cottontail can inflict severe scratches with its strong hind legs when it is frantic to get away. Squirrels can bite a human finger to the bone and raccoon bites are equivalent to those of a much larger dog.
  • Wild animals you raise may incorporate your home and yard into their territory as they grow older. This will throw them into direct competition with your pets and other neighborhood animals. They may continue to view you as a source of food and can become aggressive and destructive if it is not provided. In extreme situations, they may even view humans as members of their own species. Hormonally induced behavior during mating season can be particularly obnoxious and dangerous.
  • Wild animals carry diseases that are transmissible to humans and pets. Reptiles are known carriers of salmonella, a bacterial disease that results in diarrhea and dehydration and can even cause death in severely affected individuals. Mammals all carry external parasites (lice and fleas) that usually do not infest humans, but can potentially be a problem for your pets. Ticks can spread disease between their original host and any other susceptible animal. Any mammal (although raccoons are the particular culprit) can carry microscopic roundworm intestinal parasites that can cause severe disease or even death if accidentally ingested by a human or pet. Although children with their less developed sense of hygiene are at particular risk, even adults can inadvertently expose themselves. Other intestinal parasites (protozoa) such as giardia and cryptosporidium can cause diarrheal diseases similar to salmonella. Familiar-sounding diseases such as rabies and bubonic plague and less familiar ones like tularemia, while rare in this area, are not unheard of.
All native wild animals are protected by state and federal laws.

Please remember that it is illegal to keep wild animals without a license, even for very short periods of time. Wild animals, particularly babies, have very specialized nutritional, housing, and handling needs that you are unlikely to be able to provide. Well meaning but inexperienced individuals who attempt to raise them inevitably produce an unhealthy, tame animal that cannot survive in its natural habitat.

Willowbrook Wildlife Center has been issued permits by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to provide rehabilitation and captive rearing for native wild animals. The Willowbrook staff is comprised of individuals with degrees and experience in the fields of wildlife medicine, wildlife rehabilitation, animal husbandry, natural history and ecology. One of the conditions of these permits prohibits Willowbrook staff from providing technical information that would allow an unlicensed individual to care for a wild animal in their home.

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