Hutchinson Zoo limits wild animals it will help

? Animal lovers who bring wild animals to the rehabilitation center at the Hutchinson Zoo might be turned away because of new state guidelines about caring for wildlife, zoo officials said.

The zoo will no longer take deer, pigeons, starlings, raccoons or skunks at its rehabilitation center because of the guidelines from the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, said zoo director Jana Durham. The zoo is asking residents to call before bringing sick, injured or abandoned animals to the rehabilitation center.

“We’re not going to accept all animals like we once did,” Durham said. “Most animals have a better chance in the wild despite our best efforts.”

For example, 90 percent of the deer it sees are brought by people who spot a fawn in a field and think it’s been abandoned, when usually the mother is probably nearby and waiting for the person to leave, zoo curator Kiley Buggeln told The Hutchinson News.

The state guidelines also are based on safety concerns, she said. Several deer in northwest Kansas have tested positive for chronic wasting disease, which is a contagious among deer and elk. Raccoons and skunks have a high risk of getting rabies, and raccoons also can carry distemper and roundworm, which can be fatal to humans.

And picking up young animals is against the law, with a possible fine up to $1,000, the wildlife department said.

The zoo has a new educational coordinator on staff whose job will include directing a program to teach residents about the rehabilitation program, she said.

In June, the zoo dedicated the new Cargill Wildcare Center, which includes rehabilitation of wild animals and provides space for a doctor and checks of the zoo’s exhibits. The zoo rehabilitates about 600 animals a year, Durham said.

Hutchinson has one of only four rehabilitation facilities in the state, with the others at zoos in Great Bend, Emporia and Salina.