Veterinarian recommends leaving abandoned or injured wildlife alone

PULLMAN, WA - At this time of year, concerned citizens often bring young wildlife to Washington State University's Veterinary Hospital for rehabilitation.

Palouse Reporter Rachel Dubrovin explains why veterinarians urge people to leave those animals alone, even if they appear to be hurt or abandoned.

Veterinarian Nickol Finch has her job down to a science.

"We tend to get rabbits in on nice days because people are out working in their garden and they find a rabbit nest," said WSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital Exotics and Wildlife Department Head Nickol Finch. "Baby squirrels, we know we're always going to get them the first nice day after a big wind storm."

Finch heads the Exotics and Wildlife Department at Washington State University's Veterinary Teaching Hospital, and she spends a lot of time rehabilitating young animals.

"This year we've had many babies that we didn't really need to see, that could have stayed out in the wild," said Finch.

Many of Finch's patients are baby rabbits, birds and squirrels that citizens bring in because they think they're hurt or abandoned. But she says bringing them to the hospital can do more harm than good.

"The animal mother is always better than what we are," said Finch.

Finch said mothers will leave their young for periods of time and return hours later. And, if they're injured, the mom will take care of them or nature will take its course.

"I know it sounds very harsh, but they're wild animals, and there is a natural cycle," said Finch.

Only about half of the animals that citizens bring to the hospital make it back into the wild, but Finch said it's tough for her to turn animals away.

"I kind of do have a soft heart," said Finch. "So if somebody brings it to me, I will do my best to care for it appropriately, but it gets really hard.

The Veterinary Teaching Hospital reminds citizens that bringing in wildlife disrupts a natural cycle, and it can be costly to taxpayers since they're part of a public institution.