Proceed Cautiously if you Find Injured or Orphaned Animals

If you’re spending more time than usual walking or hiking these days, you may come across injured, sick or orphaned wildlife in your visits to local parks. Your first instinct might be to try to help, but your efforts could do more harm than good.

Back Yard Fawn 030

Fawn awaiting its mother’s return.

The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) advises that human interaction with wildlife should always be kept to a minimum. In fact, humans often misinterpret normal wildlife behavior and could disturb or stress wild animals in their efforts to catch them.

For example, in springtime concerned people often pick up young animals that they think are orphaned. Unfortunately, the VDGIF reports that 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.

Please heed these warnings from the VDGIF website. Leave a wild animal alone, unless one of these guidelines applies:

First, make sure it really is injured or orphaned. Sometimes a parent is close by but waiting for the human intruder to leave. Other times a dazed or unconscious animal is only temporarily stunned. The kindest thing you can do for these animals is keep them out of the way of predators by placing them in a box or elevated place.

Second, if the animal is hurt and you are able and willing to pick it up, do so with care (this includes heavy gloves), handling it as little as possible and keeping your hands away from its mouth (there is always potential for rabies among wild animals). Place the animal in a well-ventilated cardboard box in a dark, quiet, warm place. Do not feed it. Call a rehabilitation facility and follow their instructions. Do not attempt to rescue skunks or bats. These are high-risk animals that are potentially dangerous to your health. Never attempt to capture an adult sick or injured mammal. They are frightened and/or in pain and see you as a threat and can bite severely.

If a fawn or rabbit has been “rescued” when it shouldn’t have been, it can often be released at the same location — if it is on the same day. Parents tend to remain in the area for at least a day, looking for the lost youngster. Leave him as close as possible to where he was found and withdraw at least 50 yards and observe with binoculars until dusk. If the parent hasn’t picked up the little one by nightfall, you will need to contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator.

Baby squirrel

Baby squirrel found in woods.

The folks at VDGIF offer helpful information about some of the mammals you may discover in Virginia at these links:

If you find a wild animal anywhere in Virginia that’s truly in need of some human help, you can go online to find a licensed wildlife rehabilitator or call VDGIF’s toll-free wildlife conflict helpline at 1-855-571-9003. It’s open 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. You can also visit their website at https://www.dgif.virginia.gov/wildlife/injured/.

In Fairfax County, the Fairfax County Animal Protection Police respond to wildlife calls for injured, sick or aggressive animals. Contact the Animal Protection Police through the non-emergency line at 703-691-2131 or learn more about their work by visiting the county’s Injured and Orphaned Wildlife web page.

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About Fairfax County Park Authority

About Fairfax County Park Authority HISTORY: On December 6, 1950, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors created the Fairfax County Park Authority. The Park Authority was authorized to make decisions concerning land acquisition, park development and operations in Fairfax County, Virginia. To date, 13 park bond referenda have been approved between 1959 and 2016. Today, the Park Authority has 427 parks on more than 23,000 acres of land. We offer 325 miles of trails, our most popular amenity. FACILITIES: The Park system is the primary public mechanism in Fairfax County for the preservation of environmentally sensitive land and resources, areas of historic significance and the provision of recreational facilities and services including: • Nine indoor RECenters with swimming pools, fitness rooms, gyms and class spaces. Cub Run features an indoor water park and on-site naturalist • Eight golf courses from par-3 to championship level, four driving ranges including the new state-of-the-art heated, covered range at Burke Lake Golf Center • Five nature and visitor centers. Also nine Off-Leash Dog Activity areas • Three lakefront parks including Lake Fairfax, Lake Accotink and Burke Lake, with campgrounds at Burke Lake and Lake Fairfax. The Water Mine Family Swimmin’ Hole at Lake Fairfax, Our Special Harbor Sprayground at Lee as well as an indoor water park at Cub Run RECenter • Clemyjontri Park, a fully accessible playground in Great Falls featuring two acres of family friendly fun and a carousel, as well as Chessie’s Big Backyard and a carousel at the Family Recreation Area at Lee District Park • An ice skating rink at Mount Vernon RECenter and the Skate Park in Wakefield Park adjacent to Audrey Moore RECenter • Kidwell Farm, a working farm of the 1930s-era at Frying Pan Farm Park in Herndon, now with historic carousel • Eight distinctive historic properties available for rent • A working grist mill at Colvin Run in Great Falls and a restored 18th century home at Sully Historic Site in Chantilly • A horticulture center at Green Spring Gardens in Annandale • Natural and cultural resources protected by the Natural Resource Management Plan and Cultural Resource Plans, plus an Invasive Management Area program that targets alien plants and utilizes volunteers in restoring native vegetation throughout our community • Picnic shelters, tennis courts, miniature golf courses, disc golf courses, off-leash dog parks, amphitheaters, a marina, kayaking/canoeing center • Provides 263 athletic fields, including 39 synthetic turf fields, and manages athletic field maintenance services at 417 school athletic fields. PARK AUTHORITY BOARD: A 12-member citizen board, appointed by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, sets policies and priorities for the Fairfax County Park Authority. Visit https://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/news2/social-hub/ for Fairfax County Government's Comment Policy.

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