Keep Wildlife Wild

Poster contest winners

Thank you to everyone who participated in the Keep Wildlife Wild 1st annual poster contest. You can view the   poster contest winners   for 2019. Our 2nd annual poster contest will start in the fall of 2019 for 4th – 6th graders. Watch this page for details.

Wisconsin's year-round outdoor activities bring people outside to enjoy the natural environment and have an opportunity to view and appreciate wildlife resources. Wild animals are valued by many, and it's important to observe them at a respectful distance to keep them wild and allow for their life in the wild to continue.

During the warmer months of spring and summer, the frequency of human-wildlife encounters increases, especially those involving young wild animals. While most of these encounters are harmless, there are times when well-intentioned people interfere in wildlife situations because they incorrectly assume a young animal is orphaned.

Remember:   A young wild animal's best chance for survival is with its mother!

How to tell if a wild animal is truly orphaned

The following are tips for determining whether these common animals are truly orphaned. For the protection of all young wildlife, please do not revisit a nest site and do not let dogs and cats near the area. To help you determine if a young wild animal is truly orphaned, refer to the   bird   [PDF] ,mammal   [PDF]   or   fawn   [PDF]   keys for guidance on evaluating wildlife situations and choosing an appropriate course of action.

Cottontail rabbit


Gray squirrel

Young grey squirrels emerge from their nest in a tree



White-tailed deer





mallard duckling



Red fox

red fox kits

Gray fox

gray fox kit



Woodchuck or groundhog


Striped skunk

striped skunk kits




Five reasons to Keep Wildlife Wild

  1. Stress:   Wild animals view people and domestic animals as predators and are highly stressed by the sights, sounds and smells of being in close proximity to humans or domestic animals. This stress can cause serious health problems and even death, for a wild animal.
  2. Diet:   Wild animals have specialized dietary needs that are not easily met in captivity. Young wild animals especially require a specific, complete diet; otherwise they are at a high risk of suffering serious nutritional deficiencies that can leave them deformed for life.   Do not feed a wild animal [PDF]   'human food items' because non-natural food items will most likely cause more harm and will not provide nutritional benefits.
  3. Disease:   Wild animals carry many different diseases and parasites, some of which are transmissible to domestic animals and even humans.
  4. Habituation/non-natural behavior development:   Wild animals need to learn normal social behaviors from their own species. Wild animals that learn non-normal behaviors from humans or domestic animals will likely not survive if they are released because they have not learned the correct survival skills, they have lost their natural fear of humans and predators and they may be abnormally habituated to human activity. As young animals grow into adults, they can still demonstrate dangerous wild animal behaviors that can threaten human and domestic animal safety.
  5. It's illegal:   Most wild animals are protected under state and federal laws and cannot be taken from the wild or possessed by unauthorized citizens. Raising a wild animal as a pet is not only against laws and regulations, but it is not doing the right thing for the animal. Wisconsin's captive wildlife regulations allow a citizen to possess a wild animal for up to 24 hours for the purpose of transferring that animal to an appropriately licensed individual, such as a licensed wildlife rehabilitator or veterinarian. Even though wild animals are cute, they should not be viewed as pets.

How you can help injured, sick or truly orphaned wildlife

Wildlife rehabilitators are licensed individuals trained and equipped to provide temporary care and treatment to injured, sick and orphaned wild animals for the purpose of release back into the wild. Never attempt to rehabilitate wildlife on your own. Wild animals can carry diseases that can be transmitted to humans and pets. They are also capable of inflicting injury to themselves or others as they fight to defend themselves against a perceived threat (humans or pets). They have very specific dietary and housing requirements that are not easily met in captivity. Plus, rehabilitating wildlife without a license is against the law in Wisconsin. Contact a licensed   wildlife rehabilitator   immediately if you have determined that a wild animal is sick, injured or truly orphaned. Never attempt to rehabilitate wildlife on your own.

Contact a wildlife rehabilitator immediately, if any of the following apply.

  • The animal's parent is dead or no longer in the area (trapped and relocated).
  • The animal has been attacked by a predator (dog, cat, other wild animal).
  • The animal is bleeding and appears injured (bruises, punctures, cuts, broken bones).
  • The animal is emaciated, very weak, cold or soaking wet.
  • The animal has diarrhea.
  • There are flies, fly eggs, maggots or many ticks, lice or fleas on the animal.
  • The animal is in a dangerous location (busy street, parking lot).