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Every day, well meaning people rescue wild birds and mammals, especially babies, they believe to be abandoned when many are not.  The following guide is intended to educate the public about behavior that may be mistaken for an injury or abandonment and how to go about rescuing wildlife truly in need of help. 

General Rules of Thumb and Old Wives' Tales
* If you have to chase a baby bird or baby rabbit down ....it probably doesn't need to be rescued! 
 * If a wild animal is in danger from a cat or dog.....remove the cat or dog - not the wild animal.
* If you handle a wild baby the mother will not take it back!   NOT TRUE!
* The baby is all alone!  It must be orphaned.     NOT TRUE!

It is illegal to care for an orphaned or injured wild animal without having the proper state and federal permits - even if the intent is to release it back into the wild.  There is much more to rehabilitating an animal for release back to the wild than just keeping it alive!

Distressed wildlife must be placed under the care of an individual with a current state permit from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources for mammals and a state and federal permit from the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service for birds. 

The Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service do not issue permits allowing wildlife to be kept as pets. It is illegal for anyone to privately possess a wild animal from the wild, a wild/domestic hybrid or a wild animal considered dangerous by the Illinois Dangerous Animals Act.  It is illegal to give rabies vaccines to wildlife or wildlife/domestic hybrids.

Game permits allow the possession of domestic wild animals. In other words, these animals must be purchased from other individuals with game permits and sales receipts must be kept.  Persons having game permits cannot take animals from the wild or be given animals from the wild by rehabilitators or anyone else.  Game permits are not permits to rehabilitate native wildlife. 

It is illegal for any individual, business or governmental agency to trap, possess, destroy, or relocate wildlife for any reason without obtaining a nuisance permit or contacting a nuisance wildlife trapper licensed by the state - even on their personal property.

Rehabilitators keeping disabled animals for educational purposes must have permits from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, the United States Department of Agriculture (Exhibitor’s Permit) and/or the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service (special purpose and special use for raptors).  In no way can rehabilitating wildlife, either orphaned or injured, be publicly displayed or used in live educational demonstrations. It is illegal for school teachers to harvest, raise and/or display native wildlife or incubate wild eggs in the classroom or for individuals to use these animals in presentations.

IDNR Conservation Law 

USFWS Migratory Bird Treaty Act   

Lacey Act

GO SLOW!  TAKE EXTREME CARE!   There are no flashing lights,ambulances or emergency rooms for wildlife.  And that is not the best for the wildlife anyway.  If you have the animal secured, put it in a warm, dark and quiet place.  Leave it alone and let it calm down and rest. Don’t let yourself be scratched or injured (bitten). It is not only bad for you but may cause the animal to be destroyed for rabies testing. All bites must be reported to the local rabies control department for your safety and the safety of others.

Always have a barrier between you and the animal.

High pitched sounds mean danger to most animals so lower you voice or don’t talk to them at all when trying to calm an animal.

Never tower over an animal.  Never put your face up to an animal or reach your hand in as a test to see if the animal will bite.

Stress from handling and noises are the biggest killer of wildlife. Being captured is a terrifying experience. Place them in a warm, dark, quiet place to relieve their stress. Handle the animal as little as possible!

Never let a child hold a wild animal, for the child’s safety and the animal’s safety. Even small bunnies can bite and little birds can peck.  Never let a child care for a wild animal.

Injured animals can sometimes seem unconscious, too weak to move or even friendly….don’t be fooled! They can suddenly get their second wind and you can end up seriously hurt.


  • When you know for sure the parent/s are dead.   
  • When the animal in injured, weak, thin, bleeding, very cold or sick.
  • If the animal is covered with flies, maggot or fleas.
  • If the animal is in unavoidable, unnatural danger.


  • Just because you happened to find a wild animal, it doesn’t mean that it needs rescued.
  • When the parent/s is nearby or one caretaker parent is still alive.
  • If the animal is fat, bright eyed, healthy and not in immediate danger.
  • General Rule of Thumb:  If you have to chase it and it can really run, it may not need rescued.
  • If a wild animal is in danger from a pet (remove the pet not the wildlife)

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 What if you find an injured bird?
If you feel it is necessary, (badly dangling wing, broken leg, etc.) get a small piece of cloth, cut a hole in the middle and put it over the bird’s head. Tie at the bottom so the bird cannot move his wings. Otherwise just put the bird in a box, wrapped in a cloth, so he cannot see. Watch that there are no raveled threads to wrap around or choke the bird.
A bird just hit the window?
Place the bird inside a paper bag or box and place in a very quiet and dark place. If it hasn’t recovered in a couple hours call a licensed wildlife rehabilitator.   Birds see their reflections in windows and think intruders are in their territory. Cover glass on outside of window with newspaper, smear with cleaning compound (Ajax), or stick Post-It notes on your window to cut the reflection.
Bird trapped in building:
Darken the room and leave a window or door open. Birds will be attracted by the light and fly out.
What if you find a baby bird on the ground without feathers?
Look for the nest. It should be very near. Place the baby bird back in the nest. The mother will not mind.
What if you find a young bird on the ground with feathers?
He is called a "brancher." When they try to fly, they fall out of the tree, but that is okay. The mother and father bird will feed them on the ground for several days while they learn to fly. Stay away so the parents can feed them. Keep dogs and cats away until the bird can fly.
What if the nest falls out of the tree?
Put it back in the tree with heavy twine, or duct tape, NOT string (can tangle up birds).
What if the nest is destroyed?
Make a new one. Use an empty butter tub with slits cut in the bottom so rain water will drain. Use lint from your dryer, tissue or paper towel or clean, dry grass for a soft liner. Fasten the nest into the tree. Place the baby bird in the nest. When it begins to chirp, the mother will find it. Make sure the bird’s head and body are supported on all sides by the liner and that the liner slopes towards the center (this keeps the bird’s feet together and avoids abnormal leg growth or "splay foot").
What if the bird is orphaned?
Make sure the bird is an orphan. Wait at least a couple of hours, far enough away not to scare the mother and father. When you are sure you have an orphan, rescue the baby before the situation becomes life threatening.
What to do if you decide to rescue a songbird
Call a licensed wildlife rehabilitator immediately.  
In the meantime you can:

  • Make a substitute nest in a box or butter tub. Never use the old nest as it may have parasites. Use tissue, paper towel or ravel free soft cloth as a liner. Replace often to keep nest clean. 

  • Make sure an unfeathered bird’s head and body are supported on all sides by the liner. NEVER use a bird cage, especially to transport! Wire damages feathers.

  • Get the bird warm or they will die! Unfeathered birds, especially, must be kept   warm. They have a temperature above 100 degrees and should feel like a child with a fever. Use a heating pad (on low) under half the nest. If the bird is able to move or wriggle, they will choose the heat. Don’t heat them up to fast!!!  Go slow. A hot water bottle or jar of warm water wrapped in a ravel free cloth will also provide warmth. Keep the bird in a dark, quiet place. Darkness is safety to them.

  • Birds eat every 15 to 20 minutes while the sun is up. If you can’t get the bird to a licensed rehabilitator right away, mash hard-boiled egg yolks with warm water until it is mushy or soak dry cat or dog food in water until soft.  Baby birds only get water from their food.  There is no need to give water when the bird is eating.  Feed tiny pieces with tweezers, eye dropper or syringe until the bird is full - repeat every 15 to 20 minutes. This is an emergency formula ONLY. A maintenance formula will be provided by a licensed wildlife rehabilitator.

  • Never feed a baby bird when it is cold. 

  • NEVER feed water (including hydrating fluid), bread, or milk to birds. Mother birds don’t give their babies water.  And they don't feed their babies bread and we've yet to see a mother bird with nipples that produce milk.  

  • Note: The IRC's permits would allow the incubation of wild eggs that are abandoned or found on the ground.  We believe if a mother abandons her eggs  or toss them out of the nest, it is for a good reason.  Too many times hatching these eggs ends with a disabled orphan not able to be released back into the wild.  The IRC prefers to trust mother nature and wild mothers.

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 What if you find an injured raptor?

These birds have very sharp beaks, talons (claws). It is best to get help with these birds. If you feel it is absolutely necessary (badly dangling wing, broken leg, etc.) to rescue and there is no help available, gently sweep the bird into a large box with a broom or other object.   Throwing your jacket, heavy blanket or towel over the bird to blind it may help you to get it into the box.  Watch out for their feet and talons!  Secure the bird inside a box, tape or tie the box lid shut.  The box doesn’t have to be large - the bird doesn’t need to move around. Transport to a licensed rehabilitator or veterinarian immediately!

What if you find a baby raptor on the ground without feathers?

Look for the nest. It can be in a cavity or a nest – depending on the species.  It should be  near where the baby fell. If the raptor is small (American Kestrel or Eastern Screech Owl) you can place the baby bird back in the nest or cavity.  Just beware of the parents - they may dive bomb you if they feel their baby is in danger. And be careful, even young birds have sharp beaks and talons.  If the raptor is large (Red-tailed Hawk, Great Horned Owl, Barred Owl or Bald Eagle)  Do not attempt this on your own, call a licensed wildlife rehabilitator or the IDNR.  These large parents could actually knock a person out of a tree and injure them.

What if you find a young raptor on the ground with feathers?

This is called a "brancher." When they try to fly, they fall out of the tree. But that is okay. The mother and father bird will feed them on the ground for several weeks or even months while they learn to fly.  Keep dogs, cats and kids away until the bird can fly.

What if the bird is orphaned?

Make sure the bird is an orphan – both parents dead. Wait several hours, far enough away not to scare the parents. When you are sure, rescue before the situation becomes life threatening.  Put the orphan in a box in a warm, dark, quiet place.  Do not feed.  Call a licensed wildlife rehabilitator.

What to do if you decide to rescue a raptor

Call a licensed wildlife rehabilitator immediately.

  • NEVER use a bird cage, especially to transport! Wire damages feathers.  Place the raptor in a box lined with a clean towel, newspapers or paper towels.

  • Get the bird warm or they will die!  Unfeathered baby raptors, especially, must be kept very warm. Use a heating pad (on low) under half the nest. If the bird is able to move or wriggle, they will choose the heat. A hot water bottle or jar of warm water wrapped in a ravel free cloth will also provide warmth. Adult raptors in shock also need to be kept in a warm place out of a draft.  Keep the bird in a warm,dark, quiet place. Darkness is safety to them.  

  • Birds of prey feed chiefly on rabbits, rodents, snakes and small birds - not hamburger and hotdogs!  Severely injured or starving birds of prey should not be fed anything hard to digest in order that they conserve their energy. If you can’t get them to a rehabilitator right away, they can be given hydrating fluid (see dehydration)...sparingly. Be careful of the beak and talons! Professional care should be sought as soon as possible.  It may sound strange but feeding a starving animal can kill them. 

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 Injured adult mammals are dangerous. You may need help if the animal is large. Use nets, gloves and blankets to capture. Do not put yourself in danger.

Orphaned mammals: Make sure the animal is an orphan. Animal mothers leave their babies for hours at a time in search of food. Unless the babies are cold or injured, leave them alone and keep an eye on them for several hours before you decide to rescue them. Do everything in your power to keep the baby with the mother. Keep dogs, cats, and children away.
What to do if you decide to rescue a mammal
Call a licensed wildlife rehabilitator immediately.
  • Orphaned and injured mammals: Using gloves, nets or blankets place the animal in a strong ventilated box with a lid or pet carrier. Place papers or ravel free cloth in the bottom. Get and keep the body temperature warm using a heating pad under half the box so the animal may choose. A hot water bottle or jar or warm water wrapped in a ravel free cloth will also provide warmth. Do not feed the animal! Feeding a cold animal, feeding the wrong formula or feeding dehydrated animals will kill them! (see dehydration) Stress is the biggest killer, so keep the animal away from people and noise. Darkness is safety to them. Keep away from TV or radios, keep your car radio off when transporting.

  • Dehydrated Animals: For emergency care it is more important to hydrate the animal than to feed the animal. Pull the animal’s skin up with your fingertips, if it doesn’t return immediately to its former shape the animal is dehydrated and needs to be given hydrating fluid. Animals under stress need hydrating. Injured animals need hydrating. Starving animals need hydrating (feeding them while they are dehydrated could kill them). Only after the animal is warmed up, you may give several drops of hydrating fluid every 15 minutes for the next 2-3 hours, then give generously each hour after.

Hydrating Fluid:  1/4 teaspoon salt, 2 1/4 teaspoons sugar, 1 cup of water makes an emergency hydrating fluid, or use Pedialyte or Gatorade. Warm fluid to body temperature before giving with an eye dropper, syringe or dripping from a Q-tip. Be careful that the animal does not breathe or cough the fluid into the nose or lungs!! This can cause death. DO NOT give this formula to baby songbirds.

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Mother ducks will not foster other baby ducklings.  Do not release a baby duck near other ducks and expect they will raise it.  They will not.  They will kill it.  Call a wildlife rehabilitator immediately if you find a baby duck.
Geese will accept baby goslings to their family.  As long as it is done correctly, goslings can be successfully released into a foster goose family of the same size and age.

It is against the law to rehabilitate bats in Illinois.  Either leave the bat alone, call a licensed trapper or the local animal control.
Bats are the only flying mammals. Bats do not get into your hair and make nests! There are no vampire bats in this area. They eat flying insects. Some bats hibernate, some bats migrate.
Do not move a bat in the dead of winter. There is nothing for them to eat and freezing temperatures will kill them.  Waking them during winter hibernation causes severe energy loss and can kill them.  If you find a bat in the winter, don’t release it outside.  Calling animal control to euthanize the bat is the humane thing to do.
Bats in your house? Bats are known to carry rabies but not all bats have rabies. They don’t show signs of the disease when infected.  Never pick up a bat with your bare hands.  Never care for orphaned or injured bats or have them in your personal possession.  Use very thick gloves or welding gloves to protect yourself if you are removing a bat from your house. If it is night, leaving doors open and lights on in the house will persuade the bat to leave on its own. Nursing baby bats may be clinging to their mothers.  Don’t release a bat if it is sick, injured, too young to live on its own, or has bitten someone. Call your local animal control immediately.  If you have any further questions about rabies, call the Illinois Department of Public Health at 217-333-6914.
Birth of one for young mother, 2 to 3 for older mothers
Eyes open at birth
Weaned at 12-20 weeks
Body temperature is 100-101 degrees.
Do not assume that a lone fawn is an orphan. Deer have no way of defending their young so the fawn must defend itself. Fortunately, it is born with a built-in defense system. Newborn fawns have no scent for the first 30 days of their life! Predators cannot smell them. They have spotted, camouflaged fur. Predators cannot see them. Fawns cannot run to keep up with their mothers, so they lie very, very still in tall grasses. Predators cannot hear them. 
Mother deer keep their babies safe by staying away from them as much as possible so they don't draw in predators. When the fawn is able to run fast enough to keep up with its mother, it will follow her and stay with her. Deer are nocturnal (night) animals. You probably won't ever see a mother deer, but she will see you. Leave the fawn alone! Fawns brought to rehabilitators rarely needed to be rescued. Watch from a distance for at least 4-6 hours or over night to see if the mother returns. Remember, it won’t starve in 24 hours and you want to be sure you are not MAKING an orphan.
Fawns can die easily from stress and captivity (capturemyopathy syndrome), even days after the event. If you must rescue, keep the animal warm, dark,  and quiet. Don't play with the fawn or display it to family and friends if you want it to survive.
If you rescue a fawn, be very careful. They can easily bolt and break their legs or back. You could receive an injury.  A blow to your head or throat by a sharp hoof may cause unconsciousness or even death. They are very strong despite the size of their legs. You might try wrapping a very small fawn in a blanket to control the legs.  Treat as an injured animal and call a rehabilitator.
Adult deer cannot be rehabilitated in Illinois.  If you have an injured adult deer, DO NOT try to move it. THESE ANIMAL ARE VERY DANGEROUS.  CALL YOUR LOCAL ANIMAL CONTROL OFFICE OR LAW ENFORCEMENT IMMEDIATELY!
Litter of 1-8
Eyes open at 6-8 days
Weaned at 2-3 weeks
Body temperature of 100-103 degrees.
Eating your garden? Plant a little extra for them.  You aren’t the only one who likes veggies. Truly, they prefer weeds! Put fencing around your garden.
Eating your trees and bushes in the winter? Buy rabbit pellets and feed the rabbits in the winter just like you do the birds. Wrap tree trunks.
Mother rabbits only return to the nest about 2 or 3 times during the night.  They are a nocturnal animal. You probably won’t see her at the nest and that is the way she wants it.
We took this picture behind the nature center with our trail camera. 
Note the time the mother rabbit came back to the nest to feed!!
If you have disturbed the nest just put the bunnies back in the nest. Make an “X” out of yarn, string or a twig on top of the nest.  Wait overnight and check the next morning. The mother is coming back if the “X” has been moved. You may check the bunnies to see that they are warm and hydrated.  If they are - the mother is taking care of them........leave them alone.
If a bunny is warm, is fully furred, eyes open, and not in danger from pets, it has a better chance on its own than with human care.  
Rule of thumb - if you have to chase a bunny down - it doesn’t need rescued. 
If the bunnies are cold or covered with parasites - you will need to rescue them. 
If the bunnies are in danger of being eaten by a cat or dog - remove the cat or dog, not the bunnies!
Remember that "touching a wild animal will cause the mother to reject it" is an old wives' tale!  BUT...don't pick it up and show it around the neighborhood! A rabbit can get so scared that it can die (capturemyopathy syndrome) from being touched or just hearing voices. Don’t feed. Improper food causes diarrhea and death. Put them in a box with air holes and a lid, not too big, not too little (watch out, even little ones can jump and bite). Treat as an injured animal and call a rehabilitator.
Litter of 4-6
Eyes open in 18-24 days
Weaned at 13-16 weeks
Body temperature is 100-103 degrees.
Raccoons stay in the baby stage for a long time. They are in the nest for 7-8 weeks. They aren’t weaned by their mother until they are 16 weeks. They sometimes stay with their mother for a year. They can be on their own when they are around 15 pounds.
Raccoons are so cute and lovable that it is very tempting to keep them for pets. And you may hear that they make good pets - they do not make good pets! When they get older, they become agitated easily and get very moody. Not only is it against the law to make wild animals into pets but it is unfair to the animal - and it is disrespectful to nature.

Raising a tamed raccoon and then releasing it into the wild is a sure death sentence for the young, naive raccoon.
IS there a raccoon in your chimney or in your attic? (DON’T START A FIRE!) Most of the time it is totally unnecessary to spend the time and money to trap a raccoon. And remember, a trapped raccoon cannot be relocated - it must be euthanized if not released at the trap site.  But you don't have to trap the raccoon.  Raccoons leave their den at dusk each night and return around 4:00 AM.  Repair the hole or cap the chimney where they are getting in after they leave and your problem is solved! 
Is there a mother raccoon in your chimney with babies? If she returns to a clock radio that is set to go off in her honor, she will be totally disgusted and move herself and her babies to another one of her dozen nesting locations. Keep the noise going in the day when she is trying to sleep to really annoy her and she’ll soon find a better den.
Give the mother raccoon plenty of time to get her babies out before you cap your fireplace or repair the hole in your house (24-48 hours). If you don’t give her enough time, she will tear your house down trying to get the rest of her babies out. Raccoons are one of the few animals that can easily climb up and down inside a chimney.  They have many more times the sensitivity in their hands than humans do and are able to feel, open, close, pry, climb, rip, smash, scratch and destroy just about anything. When she is gone, REMEMBER TO CAP YOUR CHIMNEY OR REPAIR THE HOLE!
If you find a truly orphaned or injured raccoon, treat as an injured animal and call a rehabilitator.
NOTE: Raccoons are the natural carrier of the roundworm Baylisascaris procyonis. While not usually a problem in raccoons, it is a significant risk in humans and other animals  So never keep a raccoon in your house or around young children. Enjoy them from afar.  For further information, contact the Illinois Department of Public Health or visit their website.

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 Can give birth to 22 to 56 – only 5 to 13 survive

Born the size of a bumblebee, the mother licks a saliva trail that the babies follow and climb to her pouch
She has one large breast with 13 nipples -  there are usually more babies than nipples : (
Eyes open in 58-72 days – the size of a mouse
Weaned at 13-15 weeks - the size of a small rat
Out of pouch – on their own  - around 100 days
Body temperature is 90-99 degrees.
The life span of a opossum is about 2 years
Opossums are very necessary animals to our environment. They are scavengers and help keep the earth clean.  Opossums are marsupials - they do not have placentas but develop their young in a pouch like a kangaroo or Tasmanian Devil! They later carry their juvenile opossums on their backs wherever they go. Opossums are the only marsupials in North America.
Always check a dead female opossum for babies. Just because the mother is dead doesn’t mean the babies are! But they will be if you don’t check. If there are babies in the pouch, try to pull the babies off the mother, if you can’t, transport the mother and babies to the nearest licensed wildlife rehabilitator as soon as you can.  Nursing a dead mother is not a good thing for a baby opossum's health.  Treat as an injured animal and call a rehabilitator.
If baby opossums are fully furred and at least 8 inches long – the size of a rat, they are able to be on their own unless you see that they are sick or injured.
Treat an opossum like a raccoon when it comes to one being a pest.

Litter of 2-5
Eyes open in 28-35 days
Weaned at 6-8 weeks
Body temperature of 98-102 degrees
If you find a baby squirrel fallen out of the tree or displaced because of tree cutting, put it in a box at the base of a tree where the mother has been seen and wait for the mother to come. (mother squirrels keep two or more nests, she’ll move the babies to the other nest). Keep people and animals away!  If the baby is cold, put a hot water bottle or jar full of warm water in the box with it.  Be patient. 
Want to see how that works?  Well, watch this video with Hugh Sullivan and Jacques Nuzzo  http://youtu.be/H40A_iPZ8Ng.

If it is near night time, keep the baby inside until morning and then place the baby in the box with a hot water bottle or jar of warm water, if necessary, at the base of the tree again. Watch from you window or car for the mother. If she doesn’t retrieve the baby in two or three hours, you have an orphan.  Treat as an injured animal and call a rehabilitator.

Treat squirrels just like raccoons when it comes to them being pests (see raccoons). Squirrels don’t sleep in the day however, so evening is a good time to start annoying them. They can spend the next day relocating to their second nest or building a new one…give them enough time…building and relocating can be a major process.

Squirrels, once they have fallen down a chimney, can’t climb back up again. Lower a rope into the chimney and go away for a while. Once they are out, cap your chimney!
If a squirrel gets from the chimney into your house leave all doors and windows open and go to your neighbors or sit in your car. The squirrel wants out as bad as you want him out.  They will smell the outdoors and run for it.
Eating at you bird feeder or eating your trees? Birds and squirrels have a very good relationship. They just don’t really pay attention to one another. But if you don’t want them at your bird feeder, grease the feeder pole, put a chimney pipe around the feeder pole or make a special place just for squirrels to eat. Feeding them will also keep them from eating your plants.

Litter of 1- 6
Eyes open at 24 – 30 days
Weaned in 60 - 65 days
Body temperature of 99-101 degrees
Flying squirrels are common in Illinois.  They are very, very small and nocturnal. That's why people rarely see them.  They are a cavity nester.  Generally -  they can be treated like tree squirrels for rescue. If you have a truly orphaned flying squirrel, treat as an injured animal and call a rehabilitator.

Litter of 2-10
Eyes open at 28-30 days
Weaned in 7-8 weeks
Body temperature of 101-102 degrees.
(It is against the law to rehabilitate skunks in Illinois.  Either leave the skunk alone or call a licensed nuisance trapper or the local animal control.)
Skunks are generally gentle and not really aggressive. Their hearing is weak, they have poor vision and sense of taste and smell are mediocre.
Two glands hold the pungent musk that the skunk can fire with lightning speed and great accuracy. They can fire five or six consecutive rounds, each dose only a fraction of a teaspoon. The musk is a clear amber oily fluid. Skunk oil was occasionally used to treat asthma in the 1800’s!
Skunks warn before they spray by turning around and/or by stomping their feet. Stand still, don’t startle them!
Skunks can carry the rabies virus and not show signs of the disease.  Use caution!  If you are bitten by a skunk call your animal control warden immediately and keep an eye on the skunk or trap it somehow.
Treat skunks as pests the way you would a raccoon (see raccoons). Skunks roam at night so you will need to annoy them in the same time frames as you would raccoons and opossums. Skunks are not bad - they do eat a lot of mice and bugs.
Get sprayed?  Try using Avon "Skin So Soft".

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  About Turtles   (On the Stump for Turtles)                                          


Turtles sometimes need to be rescued when crossing the road. Always place the turtle on the side of the road that he was heading toward. Be careful of the traffic - don't get yourself hurt!

Turtles need to be rescued when they get caught in window wells, fences, sewers or ditches. You may help them out and send them on their way - in the same direction that they were going!

Turtles need to be rescued and need professional help when they are attacked by dogs or cats. If the turtle is injured in any way, take it to a wildlife rehabilitator. (You can minimize this tragedy by keeping pets well attended.)

Turtles need to be rescued and need professional help when they are hit by a mower or a car. Sometimes they get caught by fishing hooks or fishing line. If the turtle is injured in any way, take it to a wildlife rehabilitator. Even a cracked shell (called a carapace) can be repaired!


Turtles are disappearing in Illinois and all over the world at an alarming rate! Only a handful of natural areas remain for turtles. Accidents on roads and highways are the leading cause of death. Too many turtles are being kept by individuals or sold to pet stores. Many get shipped to foreign countries like Japan where they bring high prices.

Seeing this, CITES (The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) added several native turtles to their protected list. This protection means that no one may ship these turtles to other countries to be sold as pets without a special permits.

CITES protects wildlife against over-exploitation. It prevents international trade from threatening species with extinction.

Sun seeking turtles can end up in deadly highways. Illinois landowners can help wildlife by creating new habitat and restoring abused habitat. Dead turtles don't appreciate good intentions - so start today! If you need help - contact your local soil and water conservation district.


  • Please, don't keep turtles as pets!
  • Ask yourself the following questions.....
  • Can I correctly identify the turtle and do I know its natural history?
  • Turtles can live as long or longer than humans, am I ready to make a lifetime stewardship commitment?
  • Can I create all the habitats that it will need - inside my house?
  • Can I give it enough sunlight and exercise? Where will it hibernate?
  • Where will I get the proper foods? How much and when do I feed?
  • Will I be able to recognize the symptoms of turtle diseases?
  • Can these diseases be passed to humans?
  • Can I afford veterinary care?
  • Will keeping a turtle as a pet decrease or increase the native turtle population?
  • Does the turtle want to be a pet or does it want to be free?

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If a wild animal is in danger of being injured by a cat or dog - remove the cat or dog - NOT the wild animal! Pets are not natural predators and are not part of the natural food chain in this hemisphere of the world.

Domestic animals running at large kill an average of 11 small birds and mammals every day - hundreds of millions are killed each year!! The Illinois Raptor Center admitted many of these victims into the wildlife hospital.  It is sad, heartbreaking and totally unnecessary and completely preventable.  

Trap, Neuter and Release (TNR) feral cat colony programs are an inhumane, irresponsible, and lazy way of dealing with cat overpopulation.  In some parts of the U.S., densities of free-ranging cat colonies reach 114 cats per square mile - several times more abundant than foxes, raccoons, opossums, and skunks put together. When prey species disappear because they have more predators than they can bare -  native predator populations decline but cat populations are not affected. Cat colonies have a dependable source of supplemental food provided by humans.  And, unlike native predators, a cat's desire to hunt is not motivated by hunger.  Even when fed, a cat's motivation to hunt is strong and they remain active.  Cats are already responsible for several bird species become extinct and many more are on the brink.  Cat colonies thrive all over the world.  

Bells and declawing have no effect on a cat's ability to hunt baby birds or mammals in a nest, branching birds or roosting birds. Because of the bacteria on the teeth, dog and cat bites are usually fatal to wild animals. Antibiotics and/or steroids must be given immediately if the wild animal is to have a chance of being saved from an attack.

Don't let your pets run loose! Without responsible pet ownership, the lives of our native wildlife will always remain in jeopardy!

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