“Don’t you play with them?”
“Don’t you get attached?”
“Do they know any tricks or commands?”
“Do they sleep in your bed with you?”
“Why are they so scared of you? Are they being abused?”
We hear these questions all the time in wildlife rehabilitation. While they’re coming from a good place, they’re also coming from misunderstanding. Wildlife rehabilitation is all about keeping wildlife wild. The ultimate goal of everything we do isn’t simply to rescue animals, but to return them to the natural world where they belong. That means we have minimal contact with our patients, and we don’t form bonds with them in the way that someone might bond with a pet. Their survival in the wild depends on their ability to fend for themselves and to avoid human contact.
There’s nothing ultimately wrong with wanting to bond with animals. If you want to be able to snuggle, train, and play with critters, you may have a calling in pet rescue, whether that involves domesticated animals or exotic pets. But within the field of wildlife rehabilitation, our goal is never to tame or befriend animals. We respect their wildness and aim to keep them wild.