ROCKINGHAM — Animal advocate Tessie Caulder handed her fifth or sixth orphaned fawn over to a state wildlife officer Friday, after finding the animal crippled and dehydrated on the side of the road.
She nursed it overnight and then called Wildlife Officer Sterling Welsh, who took the animal to a certified fawn rehabber in Sanford. That’s something Caulder and Welsh worry that other people in the same position might not do.
“People just want … to have ownership” of a cute animal when they find a bird fallen from its nest or a fawn abandoned in their backyard, Caulder said. ”People are so eager to get their hands on wildlife, (but) they have no idea how to treat them” or what diseases the animals might carry.
Besides that, keeping wildlife captive is illegal.
That is why, Caulder said, she doesn’t take in animals herself unless she is sure the mother has died — she saw buzzards circling the mother of one of her latest finds — and why she turns over to Welsh all other animals people take to her grooming shop at Rockingham Farm Supply.
Welsh said that reports of orphaned fawns used to come earlier in the year, but that does seem to be mating later, so summer finds are not rare anymore. Some finds, he said, do occur because fawns’ mothers have died, but Welsh said “the ignorance of the public” was a more likely culprit.
If an animal appears abandoned, it most likely is not, Caulder and Welsh said. If it’s a bird or a squirrel, the mother likely will scoop it back into the nest. If it’s a fawn, the mother may be off feeding, leaving the fawn somewhere she considers safe.
If the latter is the case, Welsh said, a would-be rescuer should wait two or three days to make sure the mother does not return. Even then, he should call a wildlife officer.
Animals that tend to contract and spread rabies also should be reported so they can be disposed of. Those include raccoons, skunks and bats.
It is illegal in North Carolina for anyone without a permit to keep any native wildlife, especially as a pet. Animals should be given instead to a wildlife officer, who will take the animals to licensed wildlife rehabilitators, who have the resources to care for small mammals, birds, reptiles and some other species until the animals can be released back into their natural habitats.
The site NCWildlife.org advises that “if you have found a wild animal, the best thing you can do is leave it alone or put it back where it was found” and then call the N.C. Wildlife Conservation officer. Or, as Caulder would say: “If you love it, leave it alone.”
The last part of that advice applies especially to injured animals, which may become aggressive in order to protect themselves, Caulder said.
It can be tough to do the right thing, Caulder admitted. She herself has difficulty handing over some animals, especially after nursing them back to some semblance of health.
“I have heartstrings that get pulled each time,” she said, “but knowing they’ll live and prosper where they’re going makes me feel better.
“I kinda have to emotionally detach myself from each and every one sometimes.”
Reach Christine Carroll at 910-817-2673 or [email protected]