We all worry about rabies when interacting with wild animals. This is a very real concern as some of the animals which we rescue are potential rabies carriers. This is one reason we have procedures for handling different types of animals at NWWR. (Safety of our volunteers and the public is our number one priority.)
If you see an animal which you think could put you at risk for rabies, do NOT make any attempt to get near the animal. Call us as soon as possible and we can tell you what to do. Please don't just leave the animal without getting help.
Our Director, Mary Opall, has shared the following story recently about two squirrels which were left for 5 days because people were frightened of rabies! One squirrel was rescued, but one died because of neglect.
Have you seen this squirrel?
He and sister spent several days hiding in front of a bank in Homosassa. The rumor was that they were there because they had rabies!! No one called for 5 days. The sister didn't make it, she was alive on day 4 but still no one would call us. Finally on the 5th day the Lucky Star came over this little boy squirrel. The right customer at the right time, we were there within minutes.
Please note that Squirrels are NOT listed on the rabies vector list. Why? Probably because they would die from the bite long before the disease. Also, most babies found on the ground without a mom is because something happened to Mom. Babies do not fall from the nest unless they were knocked out by a predator or they're really very hungry, again, because something happened to Mom.
Another myth: if you touch them Mom won't come back to claim them. So NOT TRUE! Put them in an Easter basket (hang out on a branch) and walk away for an hour. If one is gone it doesn't mean a cat ate it. It means Mom probably is in the middle of taking her babies back up the tree. And, look for more babies. Fox squirrels have 2 babies couple times a year. Gray squirrels have 3 babies, and flying squirrels have 5 babies and are the best moms I've ever seen. Mom will jump right into your lap to reclaim her babies.
Here at NWWR our goal is to keep wildlife wild. If that's not possible then it depends on where they are most likely to thrive. We are unpaid volunteers working hours and hours away from our families caring for or capturing an animal we hope is still there when we get there. We pay for our own gas and a lot of other things. But we cannot do it alone. It generally costs $25,000 per year to stay open. Grants are harder to find, so we rely on the generosity of our friends to help us.