(WJHL) – With springtime rolling in and animals emerging from their winter hideaways, it’s much more likely that you, a pet or a family member will have a close encounter with your natural neighbors in the coming months.

News Channel 11 spoke with representatives from the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) to see what you should do if you run into a baby animal alone in the wild.

For animals that appear to be abandoned and aren’t in stress, the TWRA has a quick and clear guideline: “leave it alone.”

Springtime wet weather can drive some wildlife out of burrows and nests temporarily, and the movement can lead to an influx of calls to wildlife workers state-wide.

“Each year, especially in the spring and the early summer, Tennesseans encounter wildlife, appearing to be orphaned, sick, or injured,” a press release said. “The TWRA urges the public to leave wildlife alone. In cases with young wildlife where they appear to be lost or abandoned, they have been placed in the location by the parent or parents to keep it safe from predators while the parents are nearby feeding or collecting food for the youth.”

With that said, there are a few cases where intervention might be needed. TWRA public information officer Matthew Cameron provided the flow-chart below:

For baby rabbits, they should only be handled in select circumstances. It’s common to find one or more baby rabbits that are perfectly healthy without a mother anywhere nearby, since she often leaves them on their own for several hours at a time. Where that stops, however, is if one is visibly injured. In that case, the TWRA recommends finding the nearest licensed animal rehabilitator and giving them a call.

In the Tri-Cities, your best bet is most likely the Wynn Wood Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Carter County. Before handling any animal, Wynn Wood recommended calling 423-474-6220 to describe the situation and determine how to move them.

For Wynn Wood, animals that do end up coming in must be entered in a specific process:

  1. Follow transport instructions provided during your call for the animal in question.
  2. Drive to the address of Wynn Wood’s drop-off building, which will be provided when you call.
  3. Bring the injured animal inside and follow instructions on the wall, which include placing the animal in lockable holding cages to prevent further animal injury.

Wynn Wood said that for patient and human safety, cameras are placed in the drop-off building. Other patients, many of which might be sick or injured, should not be approached or interacted with.

For other species, a similar rule of thumb applies. The Wildlife Center of Virginia says baby squirrels still missing their fluffy tail should be placed in an open container near the site they were found. If their mother does not return after 6-8 hours of daylight, the center recommends contacting a licensed wildlife rehabilitation center.

Other species default to the TWRA’s mantra: Leave Wildlife Alone. For those that are clearly injured, call local wildlife rehabilitators.