Corresponding with my friends at the Critter Camp Exotic Pet Sanctuary out west of Rockford, I learned to my dismay that dogs and cats are not the only pets that get found and picked up by animal rescuers.
The recent rescue I noticed on the Critter Camp’s Facebook page involves two sweet ferrets found running wild and turned in to the sanctuary. True, ferrets are cousins of a sort to weasels, and they are predators. However, animals bred to domestication—trusting humans—and raised with little or no training in hunting will be if anything more lost than a herbivore when abandoned in the wild. And any small animal is totally at the mercy of larger predators like foxes, coyotes, hawks … and even wolves, which have been reliably identified as close as Oswego, in Kendall County, this past winter.
Sadly, too many pets do get abandoned—dumped by the roadside, left wandering around camp cabins at the end of the summer, let loose at a forest preserve far enough from home that they’re unlikely to retrace their auto-transported trail. But as unsuited for life in the wild as most dogs and cats—not to mention barely weaned kittens and puppies—other pets that have been found released in the wild have even less ability to survive.
Critter Camp staff told me the bearded dragon they took in recently was a stray—and, alas, not the first. Their explanatory note to me read:
“We took in a bearded dragon (Phoenix) that had been found outside in the cold a few yrs ago. He had an infected tail that we had to amputate to save his life; he was emaciated and a mess. But he is better now [although he] still has some neurological problems because of the ordeal.”
The sanctuary also has become home to several domestic rabbits found as strays, and a recaptured parakeet. A white pet mouse now at Critter Camp had at least been dumped at a forest preserve office instead of in the woods.
I would hope no one undertakes pet ownership lightly, but even the most well-conceived pet adoption may not work out well. We had to find new homes for our cats when my husband developed allergies, for instance. And we got our dog Crystal when her family moved to rental housing and couldn’t keep her. Or, a pet’s people might find they’re just not well-matched with the pet they chose.
All I ask is you don’t panic if you find yourself in one of these situations. If you don’t know someone who’ll take your animal, don’t dump it in the wild for a (probably brief) life of terror and hunger. The Web can easily connect you with rescue organizations for nearly any pet you care to name, including my friends at Critter Camp for some of the more exotic pets. They currently boast a fennec fox and kinkajou amongst their inmates.
I’ve written about factors that affect the species of pet you should consider and also given background information and resources on pets other than cats and dogs. And if your pet still doesn’t work with your family and lifestyle, check my links of Chicago Pet Rescue Resourcesfor responsible options.