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Bunnies, squirrels, skunks and snakes! Pro tips on handling encounters

An Eastern cottontail bunny in a nest. An Eastern cottontail bunny in a nest.

With spring already underway, humans aren’t the only ones that are taking advantage of the nicer weather.

Here are some wildlife encounters you may experience and pro tips for handling each:

  • Unattended young rabbits, deer fawns, and songbirds: Wild parents can’t hire a babysitter and it is normal for many species to leave their young unattended for long periods. Never assume young wildlife has been abandoned or orphaned just because you don’t see a parent nearby. If your instinct is to stand guard until its parent returns, be aware that wild animals will avoid approaching if a potential predator (i.e., you!) is nearby, to avoid drawing attention to their young. Often the best way to help young wildlife is to leave them alone so their parents can return and care for them.
  • Young squirrels fallen from their nest: Windy weather during the nesting season puts young squirrels at risk of falling out of their nests. Squirrels mothers don’t abandon their young easily and will search the ground for missing young to carry back to the nest. If the whole nest falls out of the tree, a squirrel will build a new nest before retrieving her young, so it’s important to give her the time and space to do so.
  • Foxes, skunks, raccoons or squirrels making themselves at home — in yours: In early spring, wild parents are looking for sheltered, out-of-the way spaces to raise their young for the season. Crawlspaces under buildings can offer a safe and comfortable nursery for foxes and skunks while their newborn young are most vulnerable. Climbing species like raccoons and squirrels may try to access your attic. Even chimneys can become an entry point for flying species like bats and chimney swifts. To avoid having uninvited guests living under or above your building, now is a good time to make repairs to the exterior (e.g., vents, eaves, chimney caps) so wildlife can’t find their way in.
  • Spotting snakes on the move: As cold-blooded animals, snakes rely on temperature for energy to move, so warmer weather means more will be out and about, regardless of the time of year. Most snakes in North Carolina start to become active after several days at or above 60˚F, so an early spring means early snake activity while temperatures stay warm. The best way to handle a snake encounter is to give it space. Snakes only bite humans in self-defense, so bites can be prevented by avoiding situations that force a snake to defend itself from you. Never pick up or harass a snake, and avoid surprising one by watching where you step or reach, especially in areas with thick ivy or leaf litter on the ground, or piles of wood or rocks where snakes may be seeking shelter.

Regardless of the wild species you encounter, seek advice from a wildlife professional, such as a licensed wildlife rehabilitator, before moving or attempting to care for any young wild animal to avoid causing unintentional harm. For handling unwanted wildlife encounters, a licensed wildlife control agent may be able to help. When unsure of what to do, call the NC Wildlife Helpline at 866-318-2401 for assistance or visit for answers to commonly asked questions about preventing wildlife conflicts, injured/orphaned wildlife and more.

About the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission 
Since 1947, the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission has been dedicated to the conservation and sustainability of the state’s fish and wildlife resources through research, scientific management, wise use and public input. The Commission is the state regulatory agency responsible for the enforcement of fishing, hunting, trapping and boating laws and provides programs and opportunities for wildlife-related educational, recreational and sporting activities.      
Purchase or a renew a fishing, trapping and hunting license and renew a vessel registration online at