More Information available through Carolina Wildlife Center
To rescue or not rescue...
Most babies brought to Wildlife Rescue Centers are not in need of help and could have been reunited with mama if the finders had the proper instructions. Please always contact a rehabber before you touch or remove any wildlife. Also, do not assume a rehabber can take wildlife you have found. Wildlife rescue centers often have a certain protocol they must follow before taking a wild animal. It is always best for babies if they are cared for by their own parents. The instructions below will help if you cannot find a rehabber near you or if it's after hours for rehab centers.
Squirrels & flying squirrels
It is not uncommon to find infant squirrels year-round in South Carolina. We recommend that you always try to reunite babies with mama. If you've found a nest after a storm or after a tree was cut down leave the nest nearby because mama will almost always retrieve her babies.
It is not uncommon to come across fawns left alone. Like other wildlife species, mama does not stay with her babies, but she "parks" them and watches from afar to keep from attracting predators to help keep her offspring safe. She does not usually get near her babies until after dusk. Mama will not approach you if you get near her babies. DO NOT pick up a fawn just because it is sitting alone and do not attempt to raise a fawn as a pet. In South Carolina fawns can only be cared for by a permitted rehabber and it is illegal for anyone not permitted to be in possession of a fawn. (SC Code of Laws 50-11-410). If the fawn is found near a dead doe, please be prepared to show a game warden proof of the dead doe
Cottontails are found almost year-round in South Carolina. If you find a nest, please cover it back up. Mama Cottontails only visit/feed twice a day - once before sunrise and once after sunset. If you are concerned the nest has been abandoned, simply take four twigs and put them across the nest in a ‘tic-tac-toe’ pattern and if the pattern is disturbed the next morning, you know mama has returned. Cottontails are usually on their own by the time they are four weeks old, so if you find a cottontail that is fully furred with its eyes open and it is about 4-5 inches in length it is most likely already on its own and does not need to be rescued unless it is injured.
Baby birds/birds of prey
If the bird is fully feathered, uninjured and hopping around it is a fledgling. Contrary to popular belief baby birds do not simply jump from the nest and fly - it takes several tries and sometimes a few days for fledglings to master the art of flying. While on the ground mama and daddy will continue to feed their baby. Be sure to try to keep all cats, dogs, or other pets that could harm the fledgling away until the baby takes off.
If the bird is not fully feathered you can simply put it back into the nest. Please do not believe the myth that the parents will reject a baby bird after human touch. If you cannot reach the nest, place the baby in a basket (one that will drain) lined with leaves or pine straw and hang it in a tree near the nest close to where the bird was found, and then from a safe distance watch for the parents visit the baby and feed it. Almost all wild birds native to South Carolina are federally protected and can only be rehabilitated by someone with a federal permit.
Opossum babies are almost impossible to reunite with mama because she is nomadic and does not stay in one area very long. If you’ve found a baby or young opossum it is always best to contact a rehabber to see what is recommended. A rehabber can help determine the age of an opossum and determine if it needs help. If you find a dead female opossum with babies in her pouch, contact a rehabber immediately. If you can safely remove the babies without endangering yourself do so wearing gloves.
PLEASE DO NOT TOUCH ANY RACCOON WITHOUT GLOVES!! Do not attempt to pick up or move a baby raccoon without contacting a rehabber first. Raccoon are one of the leading rabies carrier species in our state. If you try to handle a raccoon and are bit or scratched, please contact your health care provider or DHEC at 803-778-6548.
Raccoon rehabbers are scarce in our state. You may have to make several phone calls before you find someone with proper vaccines to take in orphaned or abandoned raccoon. Go to www.dnr.sc.gov/wildlife/rehab.html to locate someone qualified to care for raccoon or http://www.dnr.sc.gov/admin/phone.html to speak with a game warden in your area.
PLEASE DO NOT TOUCH ANY BATS WITHOUT GLOVES!! Do not attempt to pick up or move a bat without consulting a rehabber first. If you find a bat in your home, contain the bat placing a garbage can, bucket, or another object on top of it, and then call DHEC for further instructions. Bats are also one of the leading rabies carrier species in our state. If you find a bat in your home or try to handle a bat and get bit or scratched, please contact your health care provider or DHEC at 803-778-6548. Like raccoon, bat rehabbers are scarce in our state. You may have to make several calls before you find someone with the proper vaccines to take in orphaned, abandoned or injured bats. Please do not attempt to care for a bat on your own. Go to www.dnr.sc.gov/wildlife/rehab.html to locate someone qualified to care for raccoon or http://www.dnr.sc.gov/admin/phone.html to speak with a game warden in your area.
Fox and Coyote
It is illegal to rehabilitate or relocate a fox or coyote in South Carolina. If you find an abandoned fox or coyote, please contact a game warden in your area for instructions at http://dnr.sc.gov/admin/phone.html. If you have been bitten or scratched by a fox or coyote, please contact your local health provider or DHEC at 803-778-6548.
When to call a rehabber for the above species:
-If the babies are covered in ants
- If there are visible injuries
-If mama has not returned to retrieve her babies after several hours
-If a nest or babies were found, but cannot be reunited with mama due to severe weather/extreme temperatures
-If you fear other humans may try to interfere and take the babies to keep them as pets
It is always important to contact a rehabber if you are concerned about a wild animal. Never try to feed or rehabilitate any species on your own. Wild animals can transmit parasites and zoonotic diseases to humans. Also, keep in mind that wildlife rehabbers are not shelters – they do not take in wildlife raised as pets and do not keep non-releasable wildlife. It is not uncommon for a rescue to refuse to take an animal you have found so always contact a rehabber before you remove wildlife.