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Living with Wildlife

Wildlife Conservation Law in Iowa    •   OK, So You Want to Help...    •   Two Myths to Disbelieve    •   Avoid Harming Wildlife     •     Wildlife Links

Wildlife Conservation Law in Iowa

According to the Code of Iowa, animals (whether wild or not) are property. In other words, your dog belongs to you.

Wildlife—(defined in Chapter 481A.2 Wildlife Conservation, of the Code of Iowa, as “all fish, mussels, clams, and frogs in any of the public waters of the state, and in all ponds, sloughs, bayous, or other land and waters adjacent to any public waters stocked with fish by overflow of public waters, and of all wild game, animals, and birds, including their nests and eggs, and all other wildlife, found in the state, whether game or nongame, native or migratory, except deer in parks and in public and private preserves”)—belong to the State of Iowa.

In other words, this state’s wildlife belongs to the residents of Iowa.

In addition to specifying “ownership,” this chapter of the Code of Iowa also specifies that only licensed wildlife rehabilitators may “be in possession of” injured or orphan animals so defined.

In other words, it’s not legal for those of us who aren’t licensed wildlife rehabilitators to deal with wildlife. This is how the State protects wildlife from people who don’t know what they’re doing.

Wild animals aren’t pets and now that you know the law, ethically it is your duty to behave responsibly.

Trying to turn a wild animal into a pet puts the animal in a situation where it gets stuck between two worlds and is not competent in either one.

Photo: a snake

OK, So You Want to Help...

First:  Do no harm.

• Think things through before you act.

• How sure are you that the animal in question really does need human intervention?

• If you are not a licensed wildlife rehabilitator—please get in touch with one—preferably before you take action on behalf of a wild animal.

Who Needs What—when, where, and why?

•  Is there an obvious injury? If so, the animal needs medical care from a licensed wildlife rehabilitator.

•  Is the animal exhibiting highly unusual behavior for her species? If so, she could be diseased or in pain. Remember—all mammals are susceptible to the rabies virus.

•  If it’s a baby, do you really know enough about the species to be sure mom isn’t coming back? If not, be prepared to simply observe for awhile.

•  Is this a “life or death” situation? If so, the animal needs immediate intervention. Proceed with caution! Contact your county Conservation Officer or your local sheriff.Don’t approach an injured wild animal without calling a professional for advice.

E-mail us, call the Iowa City Animal Care & Adoption Center (356-5295), or your own veterinarian to get a referral to a veterinarian who is familiar with the species in need.

Photo: young raccoon hanging in a tree

Two Wildlife Myths to Disbelieve

Photo: a young robin

MYTH—You can’t put a baby bird back in its nest. If you’re lucky enough to locate and have access to the nest, and if the baby bird doesn’t seem injured, put him back. It’s a myth that parents will abandon the baby bird once they smell human scent on them.

MYTH—Young animals found by themselves have been abandoned by parents. This is not a reliable rule.

For example, it is not unusual for female rabbits to leave their bunnies alone in the nest or when a bit older, alone above ground during the day.

The bunnies stay put and wait for mom to return at dusk from foraging for food. Deer show similar behavior.

Avoid Harming Wildlife

Every year, thousands of wild animals are injured or orphaned as a result of human activities.

•  Their legs are broken by fishing line, their wings are fractured after colliding with a car.

•  They sustain head trauma from hitting windows.

•  They are poisoned after eating insects and plants treated with pesticides and herbicides.

During spring and summer, newborns and infants are orphaned when their parents suffer any of these injuries.

Photo: chipmunk
Photo: a Woodcock duk in the water

Prevent your pet cats and dogs from interacting physically with wildlife. Don’t allow them to run without supervision and raise your cats as indoor pets. Many animals sustain terrible wounds from dog and cat attacks.

Alert birds to large expanses of glass in your home (patio doors, picture windows, etc.). Reducing reflection should cut down on the number of birds who collide, often fatally, with glass. Methods to consider:

•  Hang streamers

•  Put bird silhouettes on the glass surface

•  Allow the glass to be a little bit dirty

Pick up litter and refuse that could harm wildlife, including plastic six-pack connectors (dispose of only after cutting each circle to reduce the risk of entanglement), monofilament fishing line, and timepiece batteries (if consumed by waterfowl, they can cause mercury poisoning).

Educate children to respect and care for all creatures and their habitats. Children need to learn that wild animals are not playthings and should be allowed to go about their lives unmolested. Children should also be told not to destroy nests, burrows and other wildlife homes.

Photo: a common egret
Photo: two owls on a tree branch
Be alert when driving, especially in rural areas and near wildlife refuges to avoid hitting wild creatures. Animals do not recognize the danger from an oncoming vehicle. Stop and move any turtles away from the roadway or shoulder of the road.

As a general rule, leave infant wildlife you have found alone, since they are not always truly orphaned. A parent may be nearby or will return soon. Be sure they are in need of help before you remove them from the nest area. If you find young birds on the ground, attempt to return them to the nest.

Place caps over all chimneys and vents on your roof to prevent birds or raccoons from taking up residence and becoming a nuisance or getting trapped.

Do not leave fishing line or fish hooks lying about outdoors. Try to retrieve any kite string left on the ground or entangled in trees.

Walk through your garden and lawn before mowing or rototilling to make sure no rabbits or ground-nesting birds are in harms way. Remember, it only takes a couple weeks for these babies to grow and leave the nest. Be tolerant and give them the time they need.

Check trees for active nests or residents of cavities before cutting them down. Even better, avoid cutting down dead trees if they pose no safety hazard, since they provide homes for a wide variety of wildlife.

Use nontoxic products on your lawn and garden. Mourning doves and pigeons are particularly sensitive to organo-phosphates.

Dont leave any liquid standing in lid-less containers. This goes for empty ones too. Animals can fall in and never get out. Few survive. Leave a stick or a length of wood a bit longer than the height of the container so a trapped animal can climb out.

Do not attempt to raise or keep wildlife yourself. Not only is it illegal, but wild creatures do not make good pets. Captivity poses a constant stress to them. Young wild animals raised without contact with their own species fail to develop survival skills and fear of humans. That virtually eliminates their changes of survival in the wild.


Photo: two fawns in the woods

Wildlife Links

Grafix: Care for Wildlife

Alley Cat Allies (ACA)—proof that two women on a shoestring budget can make a difference in the lives of feral and barn cats worldwide.

Feral Cat Coalition—from the definition of “feral” to raising and taming orphaned and feral kittens.

Humane Society of the United States

Iowa DNR Wildlife Rehabiltators List

Iowa Wildlife Rehabilitators

Iowa Wildlife Rehabilitators Association—has been replaced by the Wapsi River Wildlife Rehab (Hotline: 319-480-1917)

Iowa Raptor Project (IRP)—formerly known as the MacBride Raptor Project, is still devoted to the preservation of Iowa’s raptors and their natural habitats.

Activities include the rehabilitation of sick and injured raptors, educational programs for the public, and field research of Iowa’s native birds of prey. Their list of wildlife rehabbers was updated 01/04/16.

The RARE Group (RARE)—caring volunteers who devote time, effort, and resources to help birds of prey overcome the dangers posed by nature and human activities. They collaborate with other local wildlife rehabilitators to increase the effectiveness of our program.

They serve eastern Iowa and western Illinois, offering a place for injured raptors to come for treatment.

Photo: great horned owl
Photo: an eagle

If you find a raptor in distress, here’s what RARE wants you to know

• Do not handle the bird.

• Note location, date, time, species if known, and condition of the bird.

• Do not give the bird food or water.

• Contact RARE at : 319-248-9770. Please leave a detailed message. Include your name, phone number, and information about the bird. Phone messages and emails are monitored several times a day.You can also send email. A photo of the bird could help us determine the best course of action.

Quarterly Conservation Connection—Johnson County Conservation Board

Saving Our Avian Resources (Soar)

Wildlife Department of the Wisconsin Humane

If you are out and about and come upon an animal who needs immediate assistance (especially if the animal is suffering), contact your county Conservation Officer or your local sheriff.

Please try to remember (especially when you find willdlife frustrating you) that they are not on “your” property. You are on “theirs.”









The photo images on this page are copyrighted by the nature photographer, Ron Wulff, Jr., who graciously allows them to be used by nonprofit organizations for educational use.

Photo: an otter standing on hind legs

Last update: 07/15/19.1049pm


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JCHS  •  P.O. BOX 2775  •  IOWA CITY, IA  52244-2775

NOTE that we are a small group of volunteers, most of whom work during the day. We will get back to you as soon as we can.



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