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Frequently Asked Questions

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How do I know if a baby animal is an orphan?

See Wildlife Fact Sheets 

Also see "Is the Animal Really an Orphan?" (Fact Sheet #11)

There are two types of orphans: animals which have lost their mothers and are too young to survive on their own; and animals which, though physically old enough to care for themselves, cannot do so because they have been weakened or injured. In the case of rabbits and opossums, a fully furred baby that can walk rather than crawl and whose eyes are open and bright is usually old enough to care for itself, even though it may be small. Birds, during the fledgling stage when they are learning to fly, are often mistaken for orphans. Usually parents are nearby and will bring food to the baby so be patient and see if this happens.

For the most part, other mammals, including raccoons, fox, otters, etc., are not able to fend for themselves until they are much older.

If you find a baby animal or bird first take a step back and observe the situation for a few minutes to see if a parent shows up. If the baby is in imminent danger (like in a roadway or in an area where predators are prevalent) then the baby should be removed and brought to the closest rehabilitation center.

How do I tell if an animal is hurt?

Look to see if limbs are properly in relationship to the body….not bent, twisted, or hanging limply. Look to see if a limb drags or is crooked. Look to see if the animal can stand properly or if one or more of its legs seem paralyzed. Check to see if there is any bleeding from an external wound or if blood flows from the nose or mouth indicating internal bleeding. Watch to see if breathing is labored or rough. Observe any fecal movement…. in an un-weaned baby, the stool is formed and yellowish in color. A weaned baby or adult animal's stool is formed and brown. If there is diarrhea the animal may be suffering from dehydration. Check for discharge from the nose or eyes. In the case of a sick or diseased animal, don't panic. Humans are not susceptible to most animal diseases.

Do I need to worry about rabies?

Also see "Common Misconceptions about Rabies" (Fact Sheet #5)

The first thing you need to know is that you can relax. Although rabies is a serious issue and not to be taken lightly….it is often blown out of proportion and over dramatized through movies, books, and sensationalism stemming from ignorance. For example, did you know that there as not been one case of human death in the United States from raccoon rabies?

Today's treatments are exceedingly safe and exceedingly effective with shots administered in the arm….and they are no more painful than a flu booster.

You should be aware that even an expert can't tell if an animal is rabid simply by looking at it. Brain matter must be tested and this of course is done after the animal is destroyed. Hundreds of thousands of wild animals are needlessly destroyed each year and tested for rabies and only a very small percentage yield positive results.
For your own safety and the safety of wildlife do not approach a wild animal. Isolate the animal if possible and contact Wildlife Haven at 813-792-8511 for retrieval.

Also, you should know that squirrels do not carry rabies and opossums have an extraordinarily high resistance to the disease.

Where do I get help?

If you are in the Tampa, St. Petersburg, Florida area, you may refer to drop-off areas provided on this website or you may call our shelter at 813-792-8511 to arrange transport.

If you are unable to reach a shelter volunteer and you have a wildlife emergency:

  • During business hours: Contact the Humane Society of North Pinellas at 727-797-7722
  • After hours: Contact Dr. Myers at Tampa Bay Veterinary Emergency Services either in Largo at 727-531-5752 or in Tampa at 813-265-4043.
  • Orphaned or injured bird: Contact Arlene at our Avian Division 813-963-1022.

For all other areas contact your local Humane Society for information on where to bring the animal.


What kind of animals do you work with?

Wildlife Haven works with all varieties of Florida wildlife including birds and mammals. This includes raccoons, opossums, deer, wolves, coyote, fox, otter, squirrels and all varieties of birds. We also assist exotic species whenever there is a need.

What can I do to help?

There are many ways you can help Florida wildlife. Personal responsibility for your own actions and the effect they have on our fragile environment is a good start. You can also do your part to promote compassion for our wild environment and the animals that call it home.

You can get help support our work by making a tax-deductible contribution to our shelter. Because we do not employ a staff but work solely with volunteers, 100% of your contribution will be allocated to the maintenance and support of animals in our care. Please see "How You Can Help"

Why is it important to save our wildlife?

This is an important question and there is a serious lesson in the answer.

Some wildlife is common. So are human beings. Being endangered as a species is only one reason to save a life. Need is a more important reason. Being orphaned, injured, and helpless are reasons wildlife rehabilitators save lives. They are dedicated to preserving life not deciding what forms of lives are worth saving. Rehabilitators do not take prisoners and call them pets. They nurture, teach survival, feed, raise orphaned and injured wildlife, and return them in freedom to their natural habitats where and whenever this is reasonable.

Some people think raccoons are a nuisance because they hang around vegetable gardens, back yards, trashcans, restaurants…wherever there is food. Just like us. They eat everything they can get their paws on. Just like us. They're curious. Like us. They play, mate, and love their babies. Just like us. Since they are so much like us, it may be time we enjoyed their company instead of persecuting them, trapping them, shooting them, and wearing their fur.

Rehabilitators understand wildlife is not ours to capture, experiment on, and destroy. They are people who act as surrogate parents and give back life instead of taking it.

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12514 Jot Em Down Lane, Odessa, FL 33556 Phone: (813) 792-8511 Fax: (813) 920-0698