Spring is full of trees and flowers blooming, but it's also the time of year when most baby animals are born in the wild. You can see anything from deer and raccoons to skunks, foxes, and coyotes. Trying to rescue wildlife that look sick or abandoned can be harmful to the animals and to you.

Chuck Waters, a wildlife expert with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources says rescuing animals in the wild can confuse them and disrupt their development.

"It learns to depend on people for food and doesn't learn to forage for itself, or defend itself, or have its wits about itself, and sometimes they're not releasable," says Waters. "Then they have to go to a zoo or be put down."

Interaction with wildlife can also spread diseases like rabies, salmonella, and distemper among people and pets.

"Animals, when you take something like that into your home you're not just taking in a cuddly little animal. You're taking the whole biological package," adds Waters.

Channel 3 reported on a rabies outbreak last year. According to the Georgia Department of Public Health there were dozens of confirmed animal rabies in the northwest part of the state in 2017. District director Ray King says rabies attacks your nervous system and symptoms can begin within one to two months after a bite or scratch from an infected animal.

"Stiff neck, headaches, then it might come to the inability to swallow or drink water, then to an encephalitis type illness to the brain," says King.

You shouldn't wait that long to flush out the virus. Thoroughly scrub the wound with soap and water immediately, then rinse for several minutes. Then go straight to a doctor. King says post-exposure treatment is 100% effective if you receive it quickly.

"If they got symptoms, unfortunately it's already too late. In almost all the cases the person's going to die," adds King.

It's also important to make sure your pets are always up to date on *all* of their vaccinations.

Centers for Disease Control (CDC) records show there were only 23 reported cases of human rabies in the U.S. from 2008 through 2017. Eight of these were contracted outside of the U.S. and its territories. Eleven deaths worldwide during the same time period were caused by bats, more than any other animal. The number of human deaths in the U.S. resulting from rabies has steadily declined since the nineteen seventies thanks to animal control and vaccination programs.

If you see a wild animal that looks injured or sick, leave it alone and call your local wildlife office.

READ MORE | Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Resources Division

READ MORE | Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency

READ MORE | North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission