Why Wildlife Should Not Be Kept as Pets

  • Enjoy wildlife but confining them is often illegal.
  • Wildlife taken out of the wild don’t make good pets.

Some people aren’t happy with the prospect of pet birds, reptiles, mammals or other animals commonly kept as pets. Some even advocate wild catching animals and making them pets. This is not only illegal but a bad idea. Why?

A look at pet sites gives a host of looks and sizes of pet birds, small mammals and many other pets for almost all situations. Fish can be an enjoyable project for many. Some revel in the exotic look of animals like Watusi cattle or Barbados sheep. Others seek to cross that line to capturing and confining wildlife as pets. From songbirds to otters to deer and elk it is tempting to cross the line from feeding animals to capturing them. This is usually a bad idea.

Wild animals haven’t been domesticated and even if they’re familiar with people enough to not be fearful they are not pets. Most people are not familiar enough with their habits and care to be able to keep them healthy let alone thriving. If the animal gets sick what vet will treat them? Are you seriously familiar enough with reading the habits of the species to be able to keep them thriving while removing the chance of predation, the only real ‘reason’ for confining them. Can you mimic an area large enough to eliminate stress?

Many animals are protected, some federally protected. Canadian geese for example – if they land at your pond you may enjoy them but confining them takes a federal permit as they are considered migratory birds. Raptors – hawks, owls, eagles – are equally protected and not for “pet” status as it takes someone knowing the species to care for them properly.

Wildlife that *does* adapt and lose fear of humans opens other doors – not everyone will welcome being approached. Few people take on the lifetime commitment of a dog or domestic poultry much less an animal that was wild. If you do then have to move will the new owners welcome the deer or will they exterminate it when it eats their garden? Or do you have the idea that when you’re done playing with it you’ll just turn it loose again? Songbirds will come to eat in the back yard and even nest in the back yard. Caging them puts them in a habitat they are not suited for. An animal expert that catches and removes wildlife indicated deer kill more people each year than any other captive wildlife animal…these are not Bambi. They can stab with antlers and stomp with feet.

The keeping of wildlife has been used to push regulation on exotic pets. Regulations are in place to move or have many big cat species. Wild caught animals can have a difficult time adjusting, even those such as ball pythons which are often also kept as pets. For people who know what they’re doing and are very familiar with the behavior of the animals exotic pets and wildlife may be a different game, but for the average person it’s not a good idea.

With many domestic animals needing homes the average person is better suited to one of those. Many don’t understand their domestic dog or cat but think a wolf, coyote or larger cat would be better – behavior is then fed by instinct and humans get themselves or someone else hurt or killed, and the animal is condemned to death for acting like what it is – a wild animal in a confined situation without understanding.

Did you know…

Some wildlife such as elk and bison are now farmed but they are not cattle nor can be expected to respond like domestic cattle. People who understand the species can handle this – the average person can’t.
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