2009-09-10 / Local & State

To Aid Wounded Wildlife, Pa. Official Says Go Slow

By MICAIAH WISE BILGER THE (LEWISTOWN) SENTINEL

LEWISTOWN, Pa. (AP) - Early one morning, Stacy Torok and her pets discovered an unexpected visitor in their yard - a tiny fawn.

Although the animal had wounds, Torok said she hoped its mother would find and care for it. Leaving the fawn in the yard of her Lewistown home, Torok said she continued through her daily routines.

In the evening after work, Torok said she checked the yard for the fawn and did not see it. Walking to her porch, she discovered the animal curled up on the ground with flies buzzing around it. Wanting to help, she said she "called around" to find out where in Mifflin County she could take the fawn.

"No one here takes wild animals," she said.

Then a friend suggested Centre Wildlife Care in Lemont, a licensed rehabilitation center a couple miles northeast of State College that cares for wild animals who have been hurt and brought in by the public, she said.

For many who live in a rural area, Torok's situation raises the question: What should I do if an injured wild animal shows up on my doorstep?

Though unaware of Torok's situation, local Wildlife Conservation Officer Jeff Mock said she did the right thing, based on a description of the situation.

But in most cases, the Pennsylvania Game Commission cautions people from dealing with wild animals, Mock said.

First, a decision to find care for an injured wild animal depends on the animal, Mock said. He warned people not to approach small mammals like foxes, raccoons and skunks, especially when they are out in the daylight. Pets should be kept away, too, because wild animals sometimes carry diseases like rabies, he said.

To report a strangely behaving or sick animal, people should call the local game commission.

"In the case of a mammal like a fawn, we need to determine as quickly as possible where that animal came from," which gives the game officers a better chance to reunite the animal with its biological parents, he said.

"If an animal shows up in your yard, leave it alone," Mock said. "Within 12 hours, 90 percent of the time it will go back to its mom. Fawns are kids, just like we have kids. Sometimes they wander away. It's important not to pick them up. Once they are handled, they imprint on people easily."

If, like Torok, the animal remains in the yard for a long period of time, Mock said licensed rehabilitation facilities are available in a number of counties. For example, two centers, Centre Wildlife Care and Nittany Wildlife Refuge, operate in Centre County, Mock said.

Licensed rehabilitators have training and education for specific species of animals, Mock said.

If a facility is necessary, Mock encouraged residents to transport the animals themselves, but the game commission will help if the person is not able.

Centre Wildlife Care also asks that people transport the animals themselves, if able. The center is a nonprofit organization that relies on donations and volunteers, according to its Web site.

"The goal is to get the fawn back to the doe," Mock said. "People don't like to hear this or read it, but I prefer to take the chance of the fawn not living. I'd rather it have the chance in the wild than live behind a fence or a cage its whole life."

For Torok's fawn, which she named "Hotrod," the woods will be its future, the Lewistown woman said.

Centre Wildlife moved Hotrod to another facility where it will heal and grow with another fawn the same age, Torok said. When the fawns are ready, the pair will be released back into the wild again, she said.

The facility provides professional care to more than 700 orphaned and injured animals every year, according to its Web site.

"These animals are given a second chance" by being returned to the wild, according to the site.

Pa. Game Commission regional offices: http://tinyurl.com/kmua9w/

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