The Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR) wants to remind the public that if they encounter any wild animal acting tame or unafraid of humans, to please leave the animal alone. Recently, several individuals have been injured by a white-tailed deer that had become accustomed to people after being held illegally in captivity. Wild animals that lose their fear of humans can injure people or pets.
Wild animals are meant to be wild, not pets. When wild animals are fed, held in captivity, or otherwise treated as pets, they become accustomed to people. This can lead to serious injuries to both people and domestic pets as the animal grows. White-tailed deer naturally become more aggressive during the fall breeding season when they can cause serious and even life threatening injuries if held in captivity or provoked.
DWR asks anyone who sees an approachable or sick wild animal to please report it to the wildlife conflict helpline at 1-855-571-9003 anytime from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Concerned citizens often pick up animals that they think are orphaned. Most “orphans” that good-intentioned citizens “rescue” every spring should have been left alone. Wild animals rarely abandon their young, but they do leave them alone for long periods of time.
If a wild animal has been injured or truly orphaned, do not take matters into your own hands. You may locate a permitted wildlife rehabilitator by calling the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources’ toll-free wildlife conflict helpline at 1-855-571-9003 from 8:00 a.m until 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday or using the DWR website to locate a permitted wildlife rehabilitator in your area: dwr.virginia.gov/wildlife/injured/rehabilitators/.
It is illegal to raise any wild animal in captivity in Virginia. Permitted wildlife rehabilitators are authorized to hold and care for injured or orphaned wildlife on a short-term basis before releasing them back to the wild.
With even the best professional care possible, the survival rate of rehabilitated fawns and many other animals is very low. The best advice for someone who wants to help wildlife is to keep it wild. Once people interfere, the opportunity for animals to receive natural care is reduced and the risk of harming our wildlife heritage is increased.
For more information about keeping deer wild, visit dwr.virginia.gov/wildlife/deer/keeping-deer-wild/.