Wildlife Rescue - New Rules

Sep 14, 2013

Bottle-feeding rescued baby raccoon - no longer allowed in Alabama
Credit Karin Dalziel

If you rescue an orphaned or injured wild animal in Alabama you could find yourself in a sticky situation, especially if it's one of the seven species that are no longer allowed to be cared for and rehabilitated under the new regulations.  


It is illegal to keep wildlife in Alabama without a license, because many wild animals can be carriers of rabies, without ever showing signs of the disease. They may also carry parasites such as roundworm which can cause intestinal problems and organ damage in humans. Many folks, including yours truly, have found orphaned baby animals and turned them over to people who had permits to rehabilitate the babies and return them to the wild.

Earlier this month the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources created something of a firestorm among animal advocates when it announced new regulations limiting the permits for wildlife rehabilitation. Permits will no longer be issued to anyone to rehabilitate skunks, raccoons, opossums, bats, foxes, coyotes or feral pigs. Anyone finding one of these animals, whether it’s a baby, or an injured adult, must leave it in the wild or have it euthanized. The department’s reasoning is that injured and orphaned animals are part of the food chain and to remove them puts otherwise healthy animals at risk. In addition, the named species pose a significant health risk to the rescuers and the rehabbers. Their hope is that folks will agree to let nature take its course.

Those involved in rehabilitating wild animals strongly disagree with the new regulation. Several have made comments pointing out that in the forty years since wildlife rehabilitation was first legalized, there has been a decrease in the spread of disease, bites and keeping of illegal pets. Under the new rules, rehabbers fear that people with no experience will once again try to care for these wild animals themselves, risking their own health and safety and that of their families.

Whether or not you agree with the new regulation, you should not try to make a pet of a wild animal – any wild animal. You could be putting yourself and your household in danger. If you really want a four-legged friend, there are some great dogs and cats just waiting to be adopted at your local animal shelter, when you’re speaking of pets.