Proper ways to help wildlife–this is a story with a sad ending
From the Blue Ridge Wildlife Center:
We love that so many people in our community care about and want to help wildlife – we wouldn’t be here if they didn’t! But it’s important to realize that there are proper ways to help wildlife, and by not doing so, could put you or the animal in danger. Warning: this story does not have a happy ending, but we hope this story can be used to educate and potentially prevent another situation like this from happening.
This juvenile raccoon was dropped at the end of our driveway in a box with a note. Unfortunately, the finders did not leave any contact information with the raccoon, but the note detailed how they cared for this raccoon when they found it injured. The note also makes it known that this raccoon’s injuries were from a dog attack, and that with some combination of antibiotics, they treated and healed the raccoon’s injuries before dropping them off. Unfortunately, despite these good intentions, this note and not having follow-up contact information makes this case difficult for us to treat.
Without being able to follow-up with anyone, we cannot confirm whether or not this juvenile had any bare-handed contact with his caretakers, including bites, scratches, or other potential rabies exposures. On top of that, when domestic animals come into contact with rabies vector species (species that are more likely to contract and spread rabies), it must be reported to the Health Department as a potential exposure. We have no way of verifying whether this dog attack was witnessed by the finders, or if this was just assumed due to the injuries this raccoon presented with. With no found location, we have no idea where this animal came from, and so cannot confirm they didn’t potentially come from nearby West Virginia, which is illegal for us to treat (mammals and reptiles/amphibians only).
On top of all of this, raccoons are considered a game animal due to their trapping season, and certain medications cannot be given to them due to the lack of withdrawal period known when given off-label. Without knowing which medications were given, this raccoon would automatically be nonreleasable due to these federal restrictions.
These finders made many assumptions about what would’ve happened had they brought the raccoon to us directly (or given to animal control), but unfortunately, due to their assumptions and desire to remain anonymous, our options to treat this youngster were taken away. Because no follow-up could be made, the Health Department was required to euthanize and test this raccoon for rabies, despite the note’s claim that the caregivers were vaccinated (which even if true, still requires health department reporting if exposures occur).
This was an emotionally difficult case for our staff to witness and handle, but due to state laws and permit conditions, our hands were tied.
Please do NOT abandon an animal at our door or driveway without information. If you find an animal you believe is in need, call us first before taking any actions – it could be the difference between a positive or a negative outcome for all involved.