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Keep Wildlife Wild

Wisconsin's year-round outdoor activities bring people outside to enjoy the natural environment and have an opportunity to view and appreciate wildlife resources. Wild animals are valued by many, and it's important to observe them at a respectful distance to keep them wild and allow for their life in the wild to continue.

During the warmer months of spring and summer, human-wildlife encounters increase, especially those involving young wild animals. While most of these encounters are harmless, there are times when well-intentioned people interfere in wildlife situations because they incorrectly assume a young animal is orphaned.

Remember: A young wild animal's best chance for survival is with its mother!

Celebrate Keep Wildlife Wild Week, April 1-5, 2024! See information on the annual Keep Wildlife Wild Poster Contest. Check out the Resources Library and other Educational Materials below for details on how you can help keep wildlife wild.

Five Reasons To Keep Wildlife Wild


Wild animals view people and domestic animals as predators and are highly stressed by the sights, sounds and smells of being near humans or domestic animals. This stress can cause serious health problems and even death for wild animals.


Wild animals have specialized dietary needs that are not easily met in captivity. Young wild animals especially require a specific, complete diet; otherwise, they are at a high risk of suffering severe nutritional deficiencies that can leave them deformed for life. Do not feed wild animals human food items. Non-natural food items will likely cause more harm and not provide nutritional benefits.


Wild animals carry many different diseases and parasites, some of which are transmissible to domestic animals and even humans.

Habituation/Non-Natural Behavior Development

Wild animals need to learn normal social behaviors from their species. Wild animals that learn non-normal behaviors from humans or domestic animals will likely not survive if released because they have not learned the correct survival skills, have lost their natural fear of humans and predators, and may be abnormally habituated to human activity. As young animals grow into adults, they can still demonstrate dangerous wild animal behaviors that can threaten human and domestic animal safety.

It's Illegal

Most wild animals are protected under state and federal laws and cannot be taken from the wild or possessed by unauthorized citizens. Raising a wild animal as a pet is not only against laws and regulations but is not doing the right thing for the animal. Wisconsin's captive wildlife regulations allow a citizen to possess a wild animal for up to 24 hours to transfer that animal to an appropriately licensed individual, such as a licensed wildlife rehabilitator or veterinarian. Even though wild animals are cute, they should not be viewed as pets.

How To Tell If A Wild Animal Is Truly Orphaned

The following are tips for determining whether these common animals are genuinely orphaned. To protect all young wildlife, please do not revisit a nest site and do not let dogs and cats near the area. To help you determine if a young wild animal is truly orphaned, refer to the bird, mammal or fawn keys for guidance on evaluating wildlife situations and choosing an appropriate course of action.

Cottontail rabbit
Gray fox
Red fox

How Can You Help Injured, Sick Or Truly Orphaned Wildlife

Wildlife rehabilitators are licensed individuals trained and equipped to provide temporary care and treatment to injured, sick and orphaned wild animals for the purpose of release back into the wild. Never attempt to rehabilitate wildlife on your own. Wild animals can carry diseases that can be transmitted to humans and pets. They are also capable of inflicting injury on themselves or others as they fight to defend themselves against a perceived threat (humans or pets). They have very specific dietary and housing requirements that are not easily met in captivity. Plus, rehabilitating wildlife without a license is against the law in Wisconsin.

Contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator immediately if you have determined that a wild animal is sick, injured, or orphaned. Never attempt to rehabilitate wildlife on your own.

Contact a wildlife rehabilitator immediately if any of the following apply.

  • The animal's parent is dead or no longer in the area (trapped and relocated).
  • The animal has been attacked by a predator (dog, cat or another wild animal).
  • The animal is bleeding and appears injured (bruises, punctures, cuts, broken bones, etc.).
  • The animal is emaciated, very weak, cold or soaking wet.
  • The animal has diarrhea.
  • There are flies, fly eggs, maggots or many ticks, lice or fleas on the animal.