Wildlife Rehabilitation

The Chattanooga Zoo is proud to be a fully licensed wildlife rehabilitation facility in the state of Tennessee and the only facility currently serving the Chattanooga area.

PLEASE read the following before bringing the animal to the zoo.

Rehab intake hours are from 11:00am to 4:00pm. (contact the Zoo) 

Due to state wildlife laws, the Zoo is NOT permitted to rehabilitate animals from outside the state of Tennessee.  Should you find an animal outside the state of Tennessee, please contact the state's Wildlife Department for more information (see below). 

Due to possible rabies exposure, the Zoo is NOT allowed to accept raccoons, bats, foxes or skunks.  Feel free to contact the Zoo to get help in determining your next steps.  If you have been bitten by the animal, contact your local health department immediately. 

So you found an animal... 

Is the animal injured?

Use extreme caution when handling injured wildlife, they can be very aggressive and it is recommended to wear leather gloves if the animal needs to be handled.  Place the animal in a well ventilated cardboard box with a towel at the bottom.  Keep the box in a dark, quiet place until you can get it to a rehabilitator.

Is the animal just a baby?

If you have to chase the baby animal down to catch it, it is most likely old enough and healthy enough to be on its own.

Although we have the capabilities of raising infant wildlife, there are things their mothers can teach them that we can.  This is why we try to keep them together whenever possible.

It is a MYTH that an animal's mother will not accept the baby animal once a human has touched it (yes, including birds). 

NEVER try to force feed an animal, as this could cause the animal to aspirate and can be fatal.    


Not Fully-Feathered

If the baby is not fully feathered and is not injured try placing it back in the nest if possible. If the nest is too high or has been destroyed you can hang a grass-lined basket or a plastic container (with holes poked in the bottom for drainage in case of rain).  It is always best to get the new nest as close to the old one as possible.  Watch from a distance for up to 2 hours and if the mother does not return contact a rehabber.


If the baby is fully feathered, has tail feathers and is hopping on the ground, it is a fledgling. This is a normal learning stage and the mother is nearby feeding it. You may place the bird back in the nest if it is within reach, but chances are it will hop right back out. This is a very necessary stage at which the young bird learns how to fly, find food and to watch out for predators. The bird's mother can teach them these things much better than we can, so please leave these birds be. Fledglings will be flying within a couple of days, so if you have cats, perhaps they could stay inside for a short time.


If a baby squirrel falls from it's nest, leave it be and watch from a distance for about 2 hours. If the mother is around she will likely retrieve it. If the nest is destroyed, give the mother a chance to move the babies because she usually has a second nest built for just such an occasion.  If you are concerned for the safety of the squirrel you can put the squirrel in a basket and hang it from the base of the tree in which it fell from. The mother will still retrieve it from the basket.  If the mother does not return after 2 hours contact a rehabilitator.


Mother cottontails spend less than one hour per day with their babies. They forage during the day and return only at dusk and dawn to feed their young. If you uncover a nest of infants, leave them be and check them again in the morning. If they appear round and plump, the mother has been back to care for them. If you are unsure, contact a rehabber before removing them.  If you accidentally destroy the nest, you can always make a new nest at the location of the previous one.

If you find a small rabbit hopping around and it is as big as a tennis ball and is running away from you it does not need your assistance.


A doe will leave her fawn alone for up to 8 hours at a time.  During that time she is out foraging for food and allowing her milk to replenish.  Because fawns have very little scent, a doe will also stay away to protect her fawn from predators.  She will return to the fawn several times throughout the day to feed and clean it, but will then leave right after.  If you find a fawn and it does not seem to be injured it is most likely not orphaned.  The best thing to do is leave it be and allow mom to come back to care for it.  If you are unsure if the fawn needs to be rescued, please do not remove the fawn until you have contacted a rehabilitator. 


Opossums ride on their mothers back or in their pouch until they are about 8 inches long. If you find a small opossum wandering by himself and it's body is more than 8 inches long (not including tail) it is old enough to be by itself.  If it is smaller than this, contact a rehabber.

Thank you for helping care for our local wildlife.  The Chattanooga Zoo is honored to help with your efforts.

Tennessee Wildlife Rehabilitation Contact:
Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency
Georgia Wildlife Rehabilitation Contact:
Georgia Department of Natural Resources & Game Management
Alabama Wildlife Rehabilitation Contact:
Alabama Department of Conservation & Natural Resources
North Carolina Wildlife Rehabilitation Contact:
North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission

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