It is ILLEGAL to keep a native mammal without a State Permit. Wild animals may appear cute and cuddly when young, but quickly grow up to be fairly aggressive and territorial adults. Adult rabbits, even when raised from a baby, startle easily and die rapidly in captivity. If you are interested in obtaining your state permit to become a home rehabilitator, please CLICK HERE. Please keep in mind there is training involved and you will not be able to obtain the permit quickly enough to successfully rehabilitate the animal you have found. It is therefore vital to locate a rehabilitator in your area for that animal.

To jump to a section in the text, please click on the title in the list below:

Raccoons, Bats, Foxes, and Skunks:

Unfortunately, these animals are considered to be the four main vector species for the Rabies virus in North Carolina, therefore rehabilitators in this state are not legally allowed to admit them despite their age. If you come across one of these animals either injured or acting strangely, contact your local Animal Control or dial 911 if it is after hours. If you or your pet is bitten by one, please seek medical help immediately. Animals that are suspected to be orphaned should be left untouched and given the chance to survive on their own or to be reunited with their parents. Even orphaned suckling animals of these species have been known to transmit rabies in rare cases. If a person or a pet has come in direct contact with one of these animals please contact your physician, veterinarian or Veterinary Public Health at (919) 707-5900.

Small Mammals


Baby/Adolescent Squirrel, Opossum or Rabbit

  • It is recommended you wear gloves when handling any wild mammal. All mammals, despite age, are capable of contracting the Rabies virus! If the animal is acting strangely, such as walking/spinning in circles, frothing at the mouth, or acting abnormal or confused-do NOT approach the animal or attempt capture. Please contact the hospital immediately or call 911 if after operating hours.
  • Never offer a baby animal food or water! Without the proper training and feeding devices its is VERY easy to aspirate (food or liquid enters lungs instead of stomach) these animals which leads to severe pneumonia. The incorrect diet can also lead to bloat and metabolic bone disease. KMR, or Kitten Milk Replacement, for example is for baby carnivores, NOT HERBIVORES, and can quickly lead to bloat and death for these animals! If you have already fed a baby mammal please contact a licensed rehabilitator.
  • PWC is referring calls Sunday- Thursday to Wildlife Welfare,Inc. – a non-profit organization of licensed home rehabilitators. Please call their hotline (919) 387-1662 or go to their website at . Make sure to leave a message with each rehabber you call including a number in which you may be reached at.
    • If the baby mammal is cold to touch, please immediately cover him with soft, unfrayed cloths and place in a shoebox. You must provide supplemental heat (place the box on top of a heating pad set on LOW or a put a water bottle filled with warm water and wrapped in a towel inside the box). Do NOT offer food or water to the animal as this can easily enter their lungs rather than the stomach thus creating a medical emergency. Under many circumstances the infant can be reunited with its mother. Bringing a wild baby to a human should only be considered as a last resort. The information provided below will aid in determining if the animal needs medical help.
  • If it is a Friday or Saturday please call the hospital after following the instructions directly above. If it is after 5:00pm, please follow the above instructions and keep the animal in a quiet place away from pets and children. The best thing at night for a baby mammal, especially one that is injured or sick, is sleep. Providing a night of rest, warmth and quiet at your home is the healthiest thing you can do for that baby until morning. Please do NOT offer food or water, even if kept overnight. We open promptly at 9:00am each day and are happy to assist you. The information provided below will help determine if the animal requires medical assistance or rehabilitation.


  • I found a baby bunny!
    • Wild rabbits mature much faster than domestic rabbits and are completely independent of their mothers at 4 weeks of age. If the bunny you have found is hopping around out of its nest it may just be out for a little excursion. It will return to its nest on its own and should be left alone. If the rabbit is the size of an orange or larger, then it is actually INDEPENDENT and should be left alone. Even small rabbits can outrun most predators and should be given a chance to live a life in the wild. If by chance you come across a natural predator (i.e. hawks, foxes etc.) hunting a rabbit you should leave both the rabbit as well as the predator alone. This is an integral part of the checks and balances system and rabbits are a very common and abundant prey species.
    • If you are certain the rabbit is injured, came in contact with a pet, or if you have already placed food or water in its mouth then the animal needs to go to a licensed rehabilitator. Even though the animal may appear fine, cat bites often close up quickly and can cause a deadly infection. Dogs who have handled a bunny, however gently, can still cause internal damage to organs or bones.
  • I found a nest of bunnies in my yard!
    • Rabbits are very skittish and won’t come near the nest when pets or people are near. Generally, the mother rabbit only visits the nest at night for a very brief period to feed her babies. If you are concerned about a nest being abandoned, place small sticks or a string in the letter “N” or “X” over the nest and leave it overnight. Check in the morning to see if the mother has disturbed the pattern. If the nest is undisturbed call the hospital for further instructions.
  • I found a baby squirrel!
    • Just because a squirrel is on the ground or alone does not mean it needs help! Mother squirrels will build several nests and move the babies if one becomes dirty, flea infested, etc. If the baby is not cold to the touch and does not show signs of injury, leave it alone. Go inside for an hour and allow time for the mother to return and retrieve her baby.
    • If the baby is cold, but not injured, bring the baby inside temporarily to warm it up. Place the baby in a shoebox and cover it with a soft, unfrayed cloth and provide supplemental heat as instructed above. Once it warms up you can put the baby back where it was found and leave it for one hour.
    • If the baby is injured (i.e.: broken bones, blood around the nose), came in contact with a pet, has already been offered food or water, the tree was cut down, or the mother did not come back after one hour you should bring the baby inside and cover it with soft cloths in a shoebox and provide supplemental heat as instructed above. Call a licensed rehabilitator.
  • There is a nest of squirrels in my attic!
    • To encourage the mother to take her babies to another nest, you can play music in close proximity to the nest. You may have to do this for several hours, perhaps days, without interruption (i.e. trapping the mother or physically moving the nest can cause the babies to become orphans and then need assistance). Also, baby squirrels grow up fast and it won’t be long before they leave on their own.
    • Once you are absolutely sure all the animals are gone, you will need to investigate how to seal up their point of entry to prevent it from happening again.
  • I found a baby opossum!
    • If the baby is 8″-10″ from tip of nose to where the tail begins (not ends) then it is already completely independent. Please keep pets and children away until it wonders off on its own. It is not uncommon to see young opossum out in the daytime as they forage for food more frequently than full-grown adults. If you keep pet food outside, bringing it indoors will encourage the animal to search elsewhere for food.
    • If the baby is less than 8″ then it has become separated from its mother. Once the opossum babies are too large to all fit in the mother’s pouch, they will cling onto her back for transport. If she becomes startled (by a car, dog, human etc.) and a baby falls off, she cannot afford to go back and retrieve it as this is a risk to the rest of her babies. Place the baby in a shoebox with soft, unfrayed cloths and provide supplemental heat until a licensed rehabilitator is contacted. Again, do not offer anything to eat or drink as this will cause further complications.

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Adult Squirrel, Opossum or Rabbit

  • If you have found a sick or injured adult mammal it may be herded into a box or dog crate lined with a towel. Use a towel or sheet to encourage the animal into the container; this is perceived as a safe place from the animal’s viewpoint. Keep the animal in a warm, dark area with NO disturbance. Keep domestic pets and children away from the area and animal for their safety. Call the hospital for further instructions.
    • Use particular caution and proper protection when handling adult mammals; squirrels can bite through leather gloves and adult rabbits easily fracture their backs and even die from fear.
    • Please note any mammal is capable of contracting the Rabies virus! If the animal is acting strangely, such as walking/spinning in circles, frothing at the mouth, or acting abnormal or confused-do NOT approach the animal or attempt capture. Please contact the hospital immediately or call 911 if after operating hours.
  • Please keep in mind that small mammals are natural “prey species”. If you see a natural predator such as a hawk or a fox in the area please leave the situation alone as the predator is only trying to obtain a meal. The predator has possibly experienced several failed attempts over several days before successfully catching its food.


  • I found a fawn.(spotted or unspotted but smaller than a Labrador Retriever)
    • Mothers often leave their young lying in a relatively open area while they go forage for food. Fawns will not move from where a mother has left them, even when people or pets approach. Resist the urge to pick-up and move the young animal in any way– the fawn may become lost or too far away for the mother to locate it. If you are concerned about pets or children going near the animal, please try to keep them indoors or away from the area for the rest of the day as the fawn should be gone my morning. Remember, even though this may be a small inconvenience to you or your pets, it is saving a wild animal from being taken away from its mother and raised in captivity. If you are concerned the fawn may be orphaned, leave the area and check the same spot again in 12 hours. If the fawn is still there, wandering around or vocalizing then contact a rehabilitator.
    • If they fawn is injured contact a rehabilitator before attempting to capture it.
  • I found a deer on the side of the road/ a large deer is injured in my yard. (same size as a Labrador Retriever or bigger)
    • Unfortunately adult deer do not adapt to a captive setting well and often inflict further injury to themselves. Furthermore, is it illegal in NC for the rehabilitators to accept adult deer. If a deer is injured, please call Animal Control or the local Police Department if after hours. If outside city limits you can call the Wildlife Enforcement Division (800) 622- 7137.

Wildlife and Rabies

Rabies is a fatal viral disease spread by a bite or by having contact with saliva, onto a cut or other opened wound, from an infected animal. The virus can enter the body through mucus membranes (such as mouth, eyes or nose) if a droplet of saliva happens to come into contact with this tissue. All mammals are susceptible to the rabies virus but risk is usually higher in carnivores. In North Carolina the most likely wildlife species to be diagnosed with rabies are raccoons, bats, skunks and foxes. In contrast, opossum are seldom diagnosed with the disease due to lower body temperature that does not allow the virus to survive. Additionally, animals with head trauma or other bacterial or viral diseases may present with similar symptoms.

  • Symptoms of rabies in an animal generally fall into one of two groups: mad and dumb.
    • Mad- the animal is displaying symptoms of aggression, drooling or foaming, out and in view at times and in areas not normal, and approaching both other animals (such as dogs and cats) and or humans. These animals will bit without provocation or warning and in some cases will chase after a person or animal.
    • Dumb- the animal is displaying symptoms of tameness or lack of fear, approaches but without apparent aggression, or has paralysis that begins in the hind quarters and progresses forward. These animals will also bite without provocation or warning.
  • If a human has been sleeping and a bat has been discovered in the room with them, the Centers for Disease Control recommends rabies treatment begins immediately. Bats are very small creatures and often a bite does not cause pain and is not visible to the human eye.
  • If bitten by or exposed to a rabid animal a series of shots from your doctor will prevent you from getting this disease. HOWEVER, one should contact health officials immediately if there is a possibility of exposure. The first post-exposure vaccination must be given right away. Once a human has the virus active within the body, which can happen from only a few hours to a few days depending on exposure location, the vaccination does not work and death occurs.
  • Keep your pets vaccinated and indoors or leashed. If a vaccinated pet is bitten by an animal you suspect has rabies get them a booster shot immediately, regardless of when they last received a rabies booster.

Rabies Info:

A predator is hanging around my house/ going after my livestock.

As people move further away from the cities and develop natural environments into houses, there is less and less room for predators to roam and less natural food to be found. Unfortunately this means predators are forced into our communities looking for other sources of food and places to find shelter. When we confine a potential source of food to an area, or introduce new food sources such as free-roaming cats, it often attracts predators because it offers a potential meal. If a predator is doing no harm other than controlling local rabbit/squirrel populations it is best just to learn to cohabitate in peace.

  • Penning your animals up at night or bringing them inside, starting at dusk, is the best protection against animals looking for an opportunity. Any pet would prefer to be indoors at night where it is warm and secure.
  • Acquiring a larger animal such as a llama or miniature donkey also deters predators and offers some defense to smaller animals. Keep in mind however, such animals may not be allowed in certain areas and one should research this before acquiring a large animal.

Ultimately, each city or county has its own regulations on predator control. To find out all your options call your local governmental agencies and the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commissions at (919) 707-0050.

Domestic Animals

If you have found a domestic animal then unfortunately PWC is not legally able to admit it. If you would like to get help for that animal you must find the person responsible for it or take responsibility yourself and contact an exotic vet listed below or an animal shelter.


Domestic animals are any animal that is kept as a pet or can be found at a pet store i.e.: dogs, cats, parakeets, hamsters, iguanas, chickens etc. If you find an injured stray animal, you must take it to a veterinary clinic for domestic or exotic species.

PWC is an advocate of keeping cats indoors. Cat attacks account for more injuries to, and death of, wildlife than any other cause, including automobiles! This says nothing of the additional benefits of reduced exposure to disease and neighborhood hazards, longer life spans, no fleas or ticks, and a generally happier cat.


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