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A ground nest of young cottontail rabbits. Photo by Maddy Lauria.
Contact: Joanna Wilson, DNREC Public Affairs, 302-739-9902.

Young wild animals
in your yard?
DNREC’s Division of Fish and Wildlife recommends, ‘If you care, leave them there’

DOVER (May 8, 2014) – With spring mowing season underway and having received recent calls from people who have found what they believe are “abandoned” baby rabbits, DNREC’s Division of Fish and Wildlife would like to remind well-meaning wildlife watchers not to “rescue” young wild animals. Young Eastern cottontail rabbits, in particular, may appear to be alone, since their mothers often temporarily leave their ground nests to avoid attracting predators, returning only to feed their young.

“If a baby wild animal appears injured or you are certain its parent is dead, please contact the Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife to determine the appropriate course of action,” said Wildlife Biologist Joe Rogerson, Division of Fish and Wildlife. “This will not only help ensure your safety, but also help to ensure the best possible outcome for the animal.” 

Precautions to take with both juvenile and adult wild animals:

  • If you see a young animal alone, watch from a distance to see if its mother returns, but be aware that this could take several hours.

  • Some wild animals can be unpredictable and sometimes dangerous, especially if they are in pain. They also can carry parasites or illnesses that can affect you or your pets, such as rabies. If you must handle any wild animal, wear gloves and use extreme care.

  • Remember that it is illegal to raise or keep any wild animal in Delaware.

“In almost every case, wild animals should be left where they are found. The hard truth is, if you take a young animal from the wild, you are almost certainly ensuring its death,” said licensed wildlife rehabilitator and Division of Fish and Wildlife staff member Dawn Webb. “While you may see a baby animal alone, what you don’t see is its mother, who is most likely nearby, waiting for you to move on. The bottom line is, if you care, leave them there.”

For more information, please call DNREC’s Wildlife Section at 302-739-9912. For more information on wildlife rehabilitators in Delaware, including a current list of volunteers, visit the Delaware Council of Wildlife Rehabilitators and Educators website at

Vol. 44, No. 149
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