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Native Wildlife in Captivity - To Release or Not?

To start this blog off, I want to point out that Josh's Frogs would not exist without access to native wildlife. A big part of the childhoods of many employees (Josh included!) was catching frogs, snakes, and lizards, then letting them go after a few days. Without these experiences, it's doubtful we'd be in the business we are, with a great appreciation for living things - especially those slimy or scaly. Interacting with animals leads to a fascination with animals. Fascination with animals leads to respect and conservation. When discussing this blog with Josh, he put it well - "" We have to balance conservation with our need to interact with wildlife.  It is unhealthy to not interact with nature and we have to preserve that opportunity for future generations.  They are not mutually exclusive.""At Josh's Frogs, we often are contacted by well meaning individuals who save tadpoles from a pool or drying puddle, or save a turtle crossing the road and take it home to 'care for it'. In general, wild animals are best left where they are. In some cases, taking those animals out of the wild can be downright illegal! Why, you ask? There are 3 big reasons why trying to help or save native wildlife (in this case, reptiles and amphibians) is a bad idea, and why those animals should not be brought home. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  1. Taking wild animals into captivity may very well be illegal. Depending on state law (or federal law, if the species in question is protected on that level), removing animals from the wild may be illegal, or at least restricted. Contact your state's Department of Natural Resources or Fish and Wildlife Commission to find out. Many times, they'll have the laws pertaining to wildlife searchable on their website. On the other hand, releasing animals from captivity may be forbidden. Know your local laws!
  2. Introducing exotic diseases or pests into the native population. This can be a big risk, especially if you have exotic pets in the home. Native animals could be exposed to diseases or pests they're not equipped to handle while in captivity and may introduce those back into the ecosystem when they're released. Josh's Frogs routinely tests and quarantines our animals - we're doing our part to make sure the pet trade isn't contributing to the spread of Chytrid and Ranavirus (at least from any animals that we produce!). Native animals could also introduce a pathogen to your exotic pets, causing all sorts of problems. If it is legal for you to collect some tadpoles from outside and you choose to do so, make sure to keep them away from any exotic pets, and wash your hands before and after coming into contact with them. Tend to the needs of any native animals after you've completed any exotic animal husbandry chores for the day.
  3. Interfering with the natural order of things / negatively impacting the native ecosystem. This may seem heartless, but realize the majority of animals born in the wild will not make it to adulthood. Let's look at a pair of frogs. Those two amphibians could produce thousands of eggs in their lifetime, and only 2 offspring need to survive to adulthood in order for the population to remain stable. If you were to take a couple hundred tadpoles into captivity, raise them up to frogs, then release them, you could easily exceed the carrying capacity of a given area (basically, put more animals in the habitat than it can support, in the way of food, shelter, etc). Collecting a turtle off a road and taking it inside for a few weeks could cause it to miss that year's breeding season (most turtles found on the road are moving to find mates or a safe place to nest). It's easy to see how well meaning human interference can have a negative impact on the native animals we love.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo, what should we do?Familiarize yourself with the regulations of your state and local government pertaining to native wildlife.  These regulations have been put into place with the intention of conserving the local wildlife and habitat for the future generations to enjoy.  Knowing the laws will help you to find out how to help your wildlife legally and in a manner that does not jeopardize the health of the wildlife you are looking to help, captive animals, as well as your own health.When you find yourself compelled to help a native animal in distress reach out to your state's Department of Natural Resources before you do anything.  They will be able to guide you to the right people who will be able to properly care for the needs of the wildlife you wish to help.Generally you will be asked to contact a rehabilitation specialist.  These specialists have been trained in rehabilitating wild animals so that they are able to be released in the wild with as much natural instincts as possible.  Most people do not have the training or techniques to raise an animal that is ready to live a full and productive life in the wilderness.If you are truly interested in learning how to rehabilitate wild animals, contact your state's Department of Natural Resources about how to become a Rehabilitation Specialist.  Wild animals need compassionate and properly trained advocates that know and understand how to give these animals the best possible chance to survive in the wild.We are all compelled to help injured or abandoned animals. It is in our nature as animal enthusiasts to have great empathy for those animals that are struggling.  But the more human contact that these animals have the less likely they will be able to survive once they are released into the wild.  Please take this into consideration next time you see a struggling animal. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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