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What Should I Know About Wildlife?
I see animals like raccoons and foxes during the day. Does this mean they are rabid?
With increasing development in our City, wildlife is more visible than ever before. In almost every neighborhood, Chesapeake residents will commonly see raccoons, opossums, muskrats, nutria, groundhogs, foxes, and many types of birds. These animals seem to have lost their fear of humans and have readily adapted to living in close proximity to humans. In addition, species that we often think of as nocturnal are now frequently seen during the day.
I am not comfortable seeing wildlife around my home. Can these animals just be removed?
These animals are a necessary part of our environment. Some are predators that eat vermin, insects, and carrion (dead animals). Some are prey that other animals use as a food source. Sometimes citizens request that these animals be captured and removed for no other reason than the fact that the animal is present. Relocation is not permitted when most of these animals are captured. They must be destroyed. This is neither practical nor desirable, if the animal is healthy and behaving normally. Finally, removal can often create a void that will quickly be filled by another animal.
I am afraid my family or pets might be attacked by wildlife
Citizens may be concerned about perceived dangers from these animals. In reality, a person is 700 times more likely to be harmed by a dog or a cat than one of these animals. However, wildlife is naturally drawn to food sources. The best way to discourage wildlife from visiting your property is not to provide such a food source. This may include removing bird feeders at least temporarily. As for your pet, he or she is much more likely to attack wildlife than the other way around. If your pet is injured as a result, it may have to be quarantined. The best way to protect your pet is to keep them away from wildlife and make sure rabies vaccinations are current. (See What Should I Know About Rabies?)
What if a wild animal is causing damage to my property?
If an animal is causing property damage, or you simply wish for more information about wildlife, contact the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries at 804-829-6580. After hours and on weekends call 804-367-1258. They will be able to advise you regarding the laws pertaining to these animals, and may be able to refer you to professional trappers.
What does CASU do about wildlife?
Chesapeake Animal Services does not routinely pick up wild animals or provide traps for this purpose. Officers WILL respond if:
- A wild animal is inside the dwelling portion of a residence
- A wild animal is sick or injured
- A wild animal is an orphaned baby
- A wild animal that is a mammal has caused any type of exposure to a pet or human
- A wild animal is in the act of menacing or attacking a person or pet so as to pose a direct and immediate threat to public safety
What about birds?
It is unlawful to disturb or destroy the nests of song birds or migratory birds.
CASU gets many calls during the spring and summer for "injured" birds. In reality, most of these are fledglings. These are baby birds that are just beginning to feather and have left the nest to learn to fly. They are still being fed by parents. How do you tell if a bird is a fledgling?
- Does this bird have short wing and tail feathers?
- Does it hop on the ground and maybe fly for very short distances?
- Does it call to its parents and open its mouth to be fed?
- Observe closely from a distance. Are the parents close by?
Fledglings are much better off if left alone so that the parents can care for them. They are experiencing an extremely important part of their development towards independence.
If you are really concerned that a cat or other predator may harm the fledgling, you may fashion a "nest" out of the bottom portion of a milk carton or 2 liter soda bottle. Thread the top portion of your "nest" with string or twine so that it can hang in a bush or tree, or nail it to a tree. Put some bedding in your "nest" and place the fledgling inside. It will call to its parents, and they are probably close by in any case. It is NOT true that if you touch the bird, its parents will abandon it.
What about baby rabbits, foxes, opossums, raccoons and squirrels?
Baby rabbits leave the nest when they are very tiny. Usually by 3 weeks of age. The mother rabbit will stay away from the nest for long periods of up to 12 hours. Her absence does not mean they are abandoned. If Animal Control Officers find babies that are truly orphaned, they will transport these to wildlife rehabilitators.
There are other common sense precautions that all citizens should practice regarding wildlife:
- Keep tree branches trimmed away from your home
- Seal openings to your crawl space, attic or roof
- Cover dryer, stove and exhaust vents
- Consider a chimney cover to prevent birds from nesting there
- Do not feed pets out of doors, or immediately remove food dishes after a pet has eaten
- Keep pet rabies vaccinations current at all times
- Keep pets confined to prevent contact with wildlife. Bring pets indoors at night.
- Secure pet doors at night.
- Do not feed wildlife; this will encourage them to return. It may also lead them to expect other humans, who might be fearful of wildlife, to feed them
- Keep garbage tightly secured
- Do not chase, corner or try to pet or touch wildlife
For information about techniques that will deter or discourage wildlife, send your request to:
Chesapeake Animal Services
2100 S. Military Highway
Chesapeake, VA 23323
Include a self addressed stamped envelope for return mail and specify the species about which you are requesting information.
For further information or assistance with injured or orphaned wildlife contact Wildlife Response 757-543-7000.