RALEIGH, N.C. (May 2, 2011) – The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission and the N.C. Division of Public Health are reminding citizens that while touching and feeding young wildlife may be tempting, it can be harmful to both the animals and humans.
Tampering with wildlife – even young wildlife -- endangers people and harms the ecosystem.
“Wild animals are not pets, and they are not meant to be raised and fed by humans,” said David Cobb, chief of the Commission’s Division of Wildlife Management. “Wild animals never totally lose their wild instincts, even if the animal seems tame. Those instincts can show up anytime and the results can be harmful to people and the animal.”
Wildlife can transmit diseases, including rabies and roundworm, to humans. Rabid animals, including raccoons, bats and foxes, are not uncommon in North Carolina.
From January to March 2011, a total of 83 rabid animals were identified in 43 North Carolina counties. During the same time period in 2010, the Division of Public Health reported that 74 rabid animals were identified from 41 North Carolina counties. Raccoons accounted for more than half of the cases.
In Wake County last year, a group of neighborhood children were exposed to rabies after they found an injured bat on the ground and played with it. The bat later tested positive for rabies. In Haywood County, more than 40 people received rabies shots after they were exposed to a young raccoon that was rehabilitated.
Capturing and handling a young animal can stress it, sometimes fatally. In addition, young animals in the wild that look abandoned often are not. Many species do not stay with their young all the time, returning only to feed them. The adult can return and become aggressive in attempting to defend its young. Also, as a young animal grows, it can become aggressive.
While feeding wildlife may seem harmless or even helpful, it can cause an animal to lose its natural fear of humans and seek more human food. The animal can become aggressive or cause property damage in the search for more human food.
In North Carolina, it is illegal to keep wildlife without a permit.
For more information on coexisting with wildlife, including young animals, visit the coexisting with wildlife page. Up-to-date, county-specific data on rabies is available at the Division of Public Health.