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Wildlife Advice

We get asked a lot of questions about wild animals

Here are some of our most frequently asked questions...

Burrowing Owl

I found an injured wild animal, what should I do?

Call your nearest wildlife rehabilitator first! Nearest Wildlife Rehabbers

Wild animals can be dangerous! Often times the best thing to do with injured wildlife is to leave them alone. Call your local wildlife rehabilitator to determine what is best for your circumstance. The information and advice provided herein is to help inform only. Zoo Miami is not responsible for any potential bodily harm caused by actions taken after reading this section. Please be careful!

Myths can pressure people into overreacting and causing more harm than good! Here are some common myths:

  • MYTH: "If you have found a baby or injured wild animal, you need to provide food and water until you can get it help."
    • Proper diet and delivery are important for babies! Wildlife rehabilitators actually ask that you do not feed or give water to babies or injured wild animals!
    • Bread or milk from other animals is toxic, and you could accidentally drown a baby squirrel trying to give it food or water improperly.
    • There is no one food that fulfills the dietary requirements of every animal. One critical nutrient for birds is full spectrum light which produces vitamin D which is critical for feather development.
  • MYTH: “Touching a baby bird or squirrel causes the parent to reject them.”
    • Touching a baby bird does not cause the parent to reject them. In fact, if the baby doesn’t have feathers yet, you can help it by setting it back into the nest or placing it in a basket nearby its nest and the parents will go to it and feed it there! (Call a local rehabilitator for more details!)
    • After you help it though, you need to leave it alone. Continually checking on it will only stress it out and stress is a common killer.
    • If it does have feathers, it is likely testing out its fancy new flight feathers that it has grown in on its wings while being in the nest. The feathers aren’t fully formed yet, hence the falling to the ground. This is called fledging the nest and is a normal part of their lives.Mourning Dove Photo
    • Most birds learn to fly from the ground up! During their time on the ground, they learn how to do important bird things like finding the foods they eat, avoiding predators, and finishing growing out their new flight feathers.
    • Fledging usually lasts less than two weeks for songbirds (the most common birds found). Once they have fledged, you can still provide a basket for them, but when they hop out of that you need to leave them alone! Even when it rains, even if it’s cold, even if there are predators around. Leave it be! Again, stress is a killer.
  • MYTH: "Foxes, raccoons, coyotes, or opossums are pests that need to be removed!"
    • Having foxes, raccoons, coyotes, or opossums in your yard is not cause for an emergency call! They are simply your wild neighbors.
    • However, you should not try to handle or remove them yourself. Raccoons and foxes, as well as unknown cats and dogs, could potentially be carrying rabies. A scratch or bite from them means injections for you and likely euthanasia and testing for them!
  • MYTH: “If you come across a turtle or tortoise you should pick them up and move them.”
    • Turtles and tortoises need you to leave them alone.
    • Some species, such as softshell turtles or snapping turtles are capable of inflicting serious bites at lightning speed and will not hesitate to do so if picked up! Picking them up can lead to serious injury! Other species can be helped without any significant danger, but if you cannot tell the difference, then you should not attempt to help.
      • Turtles that can be dangerous:

Soft Shell Turtle Photo

Softshell Turtle
by: Anthony Lau

Snapping Turtle Photo

Common Snapping Turtle
by: Joseph Burgess

  • As a general rule, if you are helping a tortoise or turtle in the road, then carefully move them across the road in the direction they were going and only to the other side of the road on land.
  • Many reptiles are directly harmed by intentional displacement, especially tortoises (land animals) when tossed into canals by a well-intentioned do-gooder (where they drown).
  • Turtles that swim have a flatter, more streamlined shell, and webbed feet or flipper-like legs.

River Cooter Turtle

River Cooter
by: John B. Jensen

  • Turtles that don't swim (tortoises and box turtles) have a more rounded, dome-like shell, elephantine hind legs, and club-like forelegs to help them move on land.

Gopher Tortoise

Gopher Tortoise
by: Kenneth Krysko

Box Turtle Photo

Easter Box Turtle
by: Pierson Hill

  • MYTH: “A baby animal found all alone needs immediate intervention.”
    • Sometimes mother animals accidentally drop their babies or walk too fast for them.
    • They can and will come back for them if they’re able.
  • MYTH: “If you see a snake, it is trying to get you!”
    • Snakes do not chase people. If you encounter one unexpectedly, back away and leave it alone. It is only trying to protect itself.
    • The same goes for all types of lizards! Except sometimes for Komodo Dragons but you do not have those in your yard.
    • Control what you can control such as keeping family and pets away from the snake or lizard.
  • MYTH: “Sprinkle salt around your yard to prevent toads from coming in.”
    • Toads can simply hop over salt and it is not humane to apply it directly to them.
    • Always look for toads before allowing pets or children to play unsupervised and take measures to avoid attracting toads like dumping sources of water, clearing downed branches and yard clippings, and never leaving pet food outside.
    • For more about Cane Toads check this out! https://ufwildlife.ifas.ufl.edu/frogs/canetoad.shtml
Licensed Wildlife Rehabilitators

South Florida Wildlife Center
Phone: 954-524-4302
Address: 3200 SW 4th Avenue, Fort Lauderdale, 33315
Website: https://www.southfloridawildlifecenter.org

South Florida Wildlife Center is one of the best contacts available for our community with the most resources, large and diverse facility, large staff and veterinarians to ensure proper care. They will give situational advice and redirect you as needed after answering any immediate concerns about wildlife.

Pelican Harbor Seabird Station
Phone: 305-751-9840
Address: 1279 NE 79 Street, Miami, 33138
Website: https://www.pelicanharbor.org/

Pelican Harbor Seabird Station is dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation, and release of sick, injured or orphaned brown pelicans, seabirds, and other native wildlife. They even have a “what to do” page on their website for you if you find an injured animal - https://www.pelicanharbor.org/what-to-do check them out!

Pelican Harbor Provides resources and referrals on their website as well: https://www.pelicanharbor.org/resources-and-referrals

Sawgrass Nature Center & Wildlife Hospital
Phone: 954-752-9453
Address: 3000 Sportsplex Drive, Coral Springs 33065
Website: https://sawgrassnaturecenter.org

Sawgrass Nature Center & Wildlife Hospital can respond to your wildlife emergencies and has a helpful FAQ section on their website - https://sawgrassnaturecenter.org/in-case-of-emergency/ - what a great resource!

Wildlife Rescue of Dade County
Phone: 305-342-1075
Address: 12055 SW 240th St, Homestead, FL 33032
Website: http://dadewildliferescue.com

Wildlife Rescue of Dade County - call them at 305-342-1075. If there is no answer, please leave your name, best contact number, general location (i.e. Homestead) and a brief description of your rescue emergency.

For a list of other licensed wildlife rehabilitators in Florida visit: https://myfwc.com/media/5423/licensedwildliferehabilitatorsbyregion.pdf

 

I'm afraid of a wild animal, what should I do?

  • Leave it alone.
    • Control what you can control first such as yourself, your family, and your pets. If you leave wildlife alone, they will likely be on their way sooner rather than later.
    • Venomous Snakes of Florida
  • For concerns about alligators or crocodiles call FWC's toll-free Nuisance Alligator Hotline at 866-FWC-GATOR (866-392-4286) first before doing anything else and experts will advise you on what is best to do in your current situation.
  • For suspected venomous snakes, other large reptiles, or other public safety issues related to wildlife – don’t attempt to approach, kill, or remove wildlife on your own.
  • Contact Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Venom Response Team at 786-331-4443 and they will help identify wildlife via text, email, and by phone to determine if there is any risk to you or the public and what is the best and most appropriate course of action. The vast majority of snakes that people encounter are harmless. If you feel like you may have seen a venomous snake, you can try to use this guide to help you identify it as you talk to Miami-Dade Fire Rescue about the situation.

Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Venom Response Team

Phone: 786-331-4443
Website: MDFR Venom Response Team

Wildlife Assistance Program: Helping Resolve Conflicts with Wildlife

  • The FWC's Wildlife Assistance Biologists work with individuals and communities experiencing conflicts with wildlife to find sustainable resolutions and to develop strategies to coexist with native wildlife.
  • If you are experiencing conflicts with wildlife and you know which species is responsible, you may visit the FWC Species Profile for additional assistance and information. If you are unsure what animal may be causing the conflict or damage, or would prefer to speak directly with FWC Wildlife Assistance staff, please contact your FWC Regional Office to speak with a biologist.

I can no longer take care of my exotic pet, what should I do?

Don’t let it loose! Be a responsible pet owner

  • FWC’s Exotic Pet Amnesty Program has almost a thousand registered adopters ready to give your exotic pet a quality home, no questions asked.
  • The Exotic Pet Amnesty Program is an effort to reduce the number of nonnative pets released into the wild. Owners of nonnative pet species face no legal penalties or pay any fees to surrender their pet through the program. Owners may surrender nonnative pets for any reason at any time. The FWC will facilitate the adoption process and make every effort to place the nonnative pet with an approved adopter.
  • You can email the Surrender Form to  PetAmnesty@MyFWC.com
  • They have a dedicated phone line 888-Ive-Got1 and an informative website with many resources for specific needs - https://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/nonnatives/amnesty-program/
  • If you see a nonnative animal/pet that has been released, you can call the hotline or report it on the IveGot1 app.

FWC’s Exotic Species Hotline

Phone: 888-Ive-Got1 (483-4681)

Website: https://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/nonnatives/amnesty-program/

I found an invasive animal, what should I do?

  • Call the FWC Exotic Species Hotline 1-888-IVE GOT1 (843-4681)
  • If you have a smartphone, one of the best ways to report a potentially invasive species is with the IveGot1 app that is available for free at the major app stores.
    • The app will allow you to take a picture, record the location, and add any notes to the sighting. It will immediately notify the appropriate agency personnel in case they would need to take action. The app also contains a lot of information on different invasive species that may allow you to identify what you are seeing.
  • You can also record invasive species sightings at https://www.eddmaps.org/
  • Large snakes and lizards should be reported to FWC's invasive species hotline. Call 888-IVE GOT1 (483-4681) and follow the prompts.
  • They also have great resources on their website like “Managing iguanas on your own property” and “Burmese Python information and removal opportunities.” Be sure to head over to their website https://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/nonnatives/ and scroll down to the “Popular Topics” section.

FWC’s Exotic Species Hotline

Phone: 888-Ive-Got1 (483-4681)

Website: https://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/nonnatives/

What animal is this? Wildlfie ID help

  • The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission provides a tremendous resource on their website in the species profiles section https://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/profiles/
  • If you have a smartphone, the iNaturalist app, a joint venture between the California Academy of Sciences and National Geographic, will allow you to upload photos and/or sound clips and species experts or fellow citizen scientists can help in the identification of your sighting. The app is available for free in the major app stores.
  • If you are trying to identify an amphibian or reptile in Florida, the Florida Museum of Natural History maintains a wonderful website and database to help you identify a species whether it is native or non-native: https://www.floridamuseum.ufl.edu/discover-herps/florida-amphibians-reptiles/
  • If you are trying to identify an insect, spider or their kin, an amazing resource is BugGuide.net that is hosted by the Iowa State University Department of Entomology. You can request an identification for free by uploading a photo(s) in the ID Request section after registering for a free account. https://bugguide.net/

 

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