Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) officials notice an increase in illegal removal of wildlife each spring. Not only is taking wildlife from nature unlawful, it can have harmful effects on humans, pets and overall wildlife populations. Animals most often taken include squirrels, fawns, turtles and even baby raccoons. Sometimes the intent is to care for a seemingly abandoned animal. Other times, it is simply out of the selfish intent of making the animal a pet.
Removing any wild animal without proper permitting is illegal and it is most often to the detriment of wildlife. Negative effects on humans and pets include the transmittal of parasites, bacteria such as salmonella, fungi and other wildlife diseases. Additionally, pets can pass these things to wildlife making it impossible for an animal to be returned to the wild.
“We’ve seen an increase in these cases and it makes us angry. Our mission is to protect wildlife and laws are in place not only for the protection of humans, but also animals. Someone from the general public doesn’t know about wildlife disease or behavior and they’re causing dangerous situations,” stated Joe McSpadden, Hamilton County Wildlife Officer.
Moving wildlife or taking it into a home can even affect overall wildlife populations. One animal significantly affected is the, Eastern box turtle. “Turtles are long-lived, slow to reproduce animals. Removing just one can impact the population of an area. Distressed turtle populations take much longer to recover than other faster breeding animals,” stated Chris Simpson, Region III Wildlife Diversity Biologist. Additionally, some wildlife also have breeding site fidelity, meaning they will not reproduce unless they are in the area where they were born or typically reproduce.
If someone finds an obviously sick or injured wild animal they should contact a wildlife rehabilitator or call TWRA. TWRA maintains a list by county of rehabilitators that can be found at tnwildlife.org. Individuals that find what they believe to be an orphaned animal should leave the animal alone. The vast majority of the time, mothers collect their young. Even animals that have apparently fallen from a nest or tree are most often cared for by their mothers. In addition, laws forbid the movement of wildlife. A property owner that traps a nuisance animal cannot move the wild animal to another location. This law is in place to keep wildlife disease from spreading to unaffected populations.
Should someone know of an individual removing wildlife or harboring wildlife illegally, they should call their regional TWRA office. “There is absolutely no reason for anyone to have a wild animal in their home,” stated wildlife officer McSpadden. “Please help us with our mission and leave wildlife where it belongs.”
For more information regarding wildlife rehabilitators visit:http://www.tn.gov/twra/article/wildlife-rehabilitators-educators. The mission of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency is to preserve, conserve, manage, protect, and enhance the fish and wildlife of the state and their habitats for the use, benefit, and enjoyment of the citizens of Tennessee and its visitors. The Agency will foster the safe use of the state’s waters through a program of law enforcement, education, and access.