Frying Pan Farm Park keeps close tabs on the all the new baby animals that arrive in the barn each spring, but who looks after youngsters in the wild? Animal parents usually do just fine taking care of their young without any human intervention. However, there are times even wildlife could use a little assist.
In Fairfax County, the Animal Protection Police Officers are among the folks to call if you’re concerned about the welfare of any wild animals you may spot in your parks or in your neighborhood. This is baby boom time in nature, and the officers respond to numerous calls each year about wildlife that appear to be orphaned or abandoned. In most cases, the animals are probably just sitting tight until their parents arrive with a meal.
There are some signs that indicate an animal may be in trouble. The police say an animal may need help if it:
- Shows signs of flies, worms or maggots, which look like grains of rice
- Was caught by a cat or dog
- Shows signs of trauma, such as an open wound, bleeding, or swelling
- If the parents are known to be dead or are separated and cannot be united
- Is very cold, thin or weak
- Is on the ground unable to move
- Is not fully furred or feathered
In December 2019, Animal Protection Officers were called when local residents discovered a bald eagle on the ground that appeared to be hurt and couldn’t fly.
After getting some TLC from professional wildlife rehabilitators, the eagle took flight weeks later at Burke Lake Park with hundreds of visitors watching as it dramatically spread its wings and returned to its natural habitat.
The Animal Protection Police say some of the wildlife most frequently found and “rescued” in Fairfax County include squirrels, red foxes, raccoons, rabbits, skunks, opossums and songbirds. If you’re worried about the condition of a wild animal, contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator, veterinarian or the Animal Protection Police for instruction on how or whether to intervene.
The police warn: “Please do not handle any baby wild animal and do not attempt to offer food or water unless instructed to do so by a professional. This can do more harm than good.” They report that the survival rates of rehabilitated animals are often low. A young animal’s best chance for survival is to receive natural care from its parents and remain wild.
If you have questions about whether an animal needs help, reach out to the professionals. If you want to locate a licensed wildlife rehabilitator, contact the Virginia Wildlife Conflict Helpline toll-free at 1-855-571-9003. This helpline is available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 pm. Animal Protection Police can be reached through the Police non-emergency line at 703-691-2131. The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries also provides information at: https://www.dgif.virginia.gov/wildlife/injured/.