Part of being a good neighbor is knowing when to keep your distance, and this especially applies to our wild neighbors.
- If you see an animal that appears to be behaving normally, enjoy the view and leave it be. As a general rule, it is not advisable to capture and handle wildlife. Follow the old adage to "Look with your eyes, not with your hands."
- Do not provide food for wildlife. Instead, provide the conditions that create the sources of good food. For more information on how to do this, see our pages on creating a Certified Wildlife Habitat. There are a few exceptions. For example, scattering seed to create the conditions for foraging is acceptable.
- If you see someone deliberately chasing, frightening or harming any animal, consider whether intervention is possible, but do not endanger yourself. Reach out to Fort Lauderdale Police. It is unlawful to deliberately harm an animal.
- Domesticated animals out on their own, such as dogs, cats, parrots and chickens, can be just as dangerous as wild ones. Proceed with caution.
Who to Call
If you come across an animal that appears in distress or in need of assistance, it is important to keep calm and know what to do. Assess the situation quickly from a safe distance. Claws, beaks and teeth are very, very sharp. A scared or injured animal will lash out to protect itself and can cause severe injury to its rescuer.
Ask yourself these questions to figure out if the animal actually needs your help. Does the animal look visibly injured or bleeding? Is the animal trapped and unable to break free? Does it appear unable to move normally? Is it signalling with a distress call? Is the animal in a location where it may be hurt further? Is he or she in an abnormal environment or out at a time of day or night unusual for the species?
Based on your observations, follow these guidelines:
|If you find a ...||Then....|
|Baby bird||Observe from a distance briefly. When baby birds are learning how to fly, it is normal for them to fall onto the ground. Most will be able to hop or fly away after a brief period of rest. If the bird appears injured and does not move for a sustained length of time, follow the directions below for calling the South Florida Wildlife Center. If you find an entire nest of baby birds on the ground in a place where they obviously should not be, you may put on gloves and gently move the entire nest to the closest tree.|
|Newborn or very young animal||Follow the directions below for calling the South Florida Wildlife Center. They specialize in rehabilitating and releasing animals into the wild and are equipped to raise young animals until they can be out on their own.|
|Injured or trapped animal that cannot flee||Keep your eye on the animal and immediately contact the South Florida Wildlife Center. Follow their instructions exactly. IF AN INJURED ANIMAL FLEES AND TAKES SHELTER, DO NOT ATTEMPT TO CATCH IT. However, you can still keep your eye on the animal (if possible) and report the incident.|
|Wild or loose cat or dog||Assess the situation quickly. If the animal is seeking comfort and companionship, or is in such distress that it cannot move, carefully attempt to lead the animal to a safe area such as a fenced yard or covered porch. If the animal is docile and cooperative, look for a collar with the animal's name and owner's contact information. If you do not know the owner, contact Broward County Animal Care. They will assist with reuniting the pet with its owner. If there is no collar or tag, they may still be able to help. Pets are often tattooed or microchipped. If the animal appears to be a stray, they can provide temporary shelter and care and arrange adoption or transfer to a foster care agency. Be aware that animals may not have all of their vaccinations. Proceed with caution.|
|Pet trapped in a tree, down a storm drain or in some other inaccessible place||Contact City of Fort Lauderdale Fire Central Dispatch 24 hours per day on weekends and holidays at (954) 765-5124 or (954) 765-5125, or contact Customer Service at (954) 828-8000.|
|Snake||Most snakes that you encounter in South Florida are harmless. And, they provide an essential service of keeping the rodent population under control. If you see a snake, leave it alone. If you are worried that it may be dangerous or exotic/invasive, call the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission at 888-IVEGOT1 (888-483-4681), or use the online form. You can also use the University of Florida's online snake identifier to learn more.
|Distressed marine animal||
Call the FWC Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (888-404-3922). Be prepared to describe the animal, the situation and its location.
|Distressed sea turtle||
In Broward County, call the Sea Turtle Emergency Line at (954) 328-0580, or call local law enforcement. You can also call the FWC Wildlife Alert Hotline at the number listed for marine animals above.
|Alligator||Sightings of alligators in urban Fort Lauderdale are not the norm, but if you are travelling along our waterways you may occasionally see one. In general, leave alligators alone. They usually find their way to appropriate habitat. If you see an alligator in a private yard or in a private fountain or swimming pool, or encounter a nuisance gator that is approaching people or pets, call (866) FWC-GATOR or (866) 392-4286.|
|Snail||Most snails that you will encounter are harmless or just average garden pests. Leave them be. If they become destructive to your plants, consult your local garden center for advice. However, there is one particular invasive snail which is wreaking havoc in South Florida. While it has not been found yet in our City, it has become a problem in far western Broward County. If you see what you think is a Giant African Land Snail, call the FWC Helpline at (888) 397-1517.|
|Raccoon||Raccoons have adjusted to urban life and may not appear to exhibit the caution that other animals do. This should not be interpreted as a symptom of disease. While you should always steer clear of raccoons, you should also know that rabies is extremely rare. Raccoons are not strictly nocturnal, and will venture out in the afternoon and in the early evening, especially when they have kittens to feed. If you see a raccoon, ignore it. If it becomes a nuisance, follow the guidelines on Broward County's Nuisance Animal webpage. If the raccoon appears ill or in distress, contact the South Florida Wildlife Center or the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission using the information below.|
|Gopher Tortoise||It is especially important not to disturb gopher tortoise burrows. In fact, it is against state law. If you find a gopher tortoise or a burrow on your property, please leave it be. If you need to do digging, lay pavers, or other development, please contact City of Fort Lauderdale Department of Sustainable Development Building Services for guidance. If you find a tortoise in distress, contact the South Florida Wildlife Center.|
|Other Animal Not Listed Here||Check the Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission Reporting List for the appropriate contact.|
|Deceased Animal||DO NOT place the animal in any garbage can anywhere nor in any waterway. Follow our Deceased Animal Guidelines.|
Contact the South Florida Wildlife Center (SFWC) at 954-524-4302 or 866-SOS-WILD immediately when you have determined that the animal needs help. Follow all instructions. Do not give the animal food or water. If directed to do so, place the animal in a dark and quiet area, or place a box with air holes around the animal to keep it safe. Keep watch from a safe distance until help arrives. The SFWC is staffed by volunteer drivers who are specially trained. Be patient, please. They are very busy and provide and essential service. Most calls for assistance are handled within the hour.
Broward County Animal Care operates a Lost and Found Line at 954-359-1313, ext. 9273. The Animal Care and Adoption Center is located at 1870 SW 39th Street. They will use the Pet Registration Database to find owner information for a pet that has a registration tag number or tattoo around the collar. If you find a lost or stray pet and cannot bring it to the Center, they do have Animal Care Officers who can assist. Call the dispatch Monday through Friday from 7:00 AM-5:30 PM at 954-359-1313,ext. 9249.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission exists to protect our wild neighbors. They operate over 20 hotlines or web reporting tools to assist with wildlife monitoring, emergencies and sightings for everything from bats to whales. The complete list is available here. They also run a Wildlife Alert Reward Program which helps to combat fishing, boating, wildlife and environmental violations.
Broward County offers extensive information and advice regarding what to do if you find the wild animals in your midst to be a nuisance. Check their Nuisance Animal webpage regarding clearing animals from your attic and discouraging them on your property without harming them.