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Wildlife Frequently Asked Questions

Q: I want to purchase a ferret as a pet, do I need a permit?
Yes, It is illegal to possess a ferret in Rhode Island without a permit. The pet store may have applications available at the point of purchase or you may obtain an application by contacting the DEM Fish and Wildlife Office.

Q: Why are there so many Canada geese? -- I see them in parks, on lawns, around ponds, and on golf courses
When "resident" geese receive food handouts they lose their fear of people and pick up habits that conflict with the human population. The handouts entice the geese to rely on humans for food and they remain in populated residential areas. As their numbers increase this unnatural crowding result in their susceptibility to life-threatening diseases like avian cholera, duck plague, and avian botulism. For humans, the concentrations of geese around ponds and drinking reservoirs cause water quality problems from goose droppings. Parks, lawns, and golf courses can be significantly fouled by a "resident" goose population. For a free copy of the report "Dealing with Resident Canada Geese" contact Joshua Beuth of our Division. Click the title to view our publication "5 Reasons Why Feeding Waterfowl is Harmful". To learn more about waterfowl visit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's homepage.

Q:  Do you have information about skunks and raccoons?
Yes, see our brochure entitled "Skunks in Rhode Island" or our brochure entitled "Raccoons in Rhode Island"

Q:  How concerned should I be about rabies?
If you are not a hunter and your domestic pets are up-to-date with rabies vaccination you need not be overly concerned. Feed your pets indoors -- pet food/water bowls left outdoors may be visited by an infected wild animal. Remember rabies is transmitted by the saliva of an infected animal. Teach your children not to touch a wild animal, not even "baby" wild animals. If your pet shows evidence of having been in a fight with another animal DON'T handle your pet without rubber gloves. Call your town's Animal Control Officer (ACO) and CALL Department of Health, Communicable Diseases at 222-2577 (after hours 272-5952). The target animals for rabies are raccoon, skunk, fox, woodchuck, and bats. To learn more about preventing exposure click "Rabies, the facts you need to know NOW". If you are a hunter, see the recommended precautions in the Hunting and Trapping Abstract.

Q:  I found a dead bird in my yard, and considering the West Nile Virus, what should I do?
If the dead bird shows no signs of trauma (broken wing, bloodied, etc.), or if the bird has not been dead for more than 24 - 30 hours, or does not show signs of decomposition, call the DEM hotline for dead birds at 788-3698. If the dead bird is exposed in the hot sun, shade it with something like an inverted laundry basket or move it into the shade with a shovel or a gloved hand. Although the target birds are crows and bluejays, the DEM will take a look at other species as well. If the dead bird shows signs of trauma (broken wing, bloodied, etc.) or if the bird has been dead for more than 24 - 30 hours or shows signs of decomposition you may bury the bird with gloved hands or double bag the bird and dispose of it as you would your regular refuse. For questions about the disease West Nile Virus call the Dept. of Health's Family Health Information line- 1-800-942-7434.

Q:  What should I know about the coyotes in Rhode Island?
There are coyotes in every city and town in Rhode Island except on Block Island. See our brochure entitled "The Eastern Coyote in Rhode Island".

Q:  What should I know about the black bears in Rhode Island?
There are a few black bears in Rhode Island. See our brochure sentitled "Living with Bears" and American Black Bears.

Q:  Does your Division still take reports of wild turkey sightings?
Yes, we take brood sightings annually from June 1 through August 31. You can record your sighting using our online form or e-mail a sighting to Joshua Beuth. In the report please include:

  • your name and daytime telephone number;
  • the date and time of day of the sighting;
  • the exact location of the sighting;
  • the number of turkeys Males, Females, Young (# and size of the young);
  • their activity, were they nesting, feeding, roosting, crossing the road, other

Q:  Does Rhode Island rehabilitate injured or abandoned animals?
Wildlife rehabilitation requires a certain skill set obtained through specific training and education; the RIDEM Division of Fish and Wildlife has a program to license wildlife rehabilitators in Rhode Island. The public is not allowed to rehabilitate wildlife without a license, and is instead urged to contact the Rhode Island Wildlife Clinic at 401-294-6363, or the Division at 401-789-0281, before attempting to capture wildlife. Please note that many young wild animals may not be abandoned and by attempting to rescue them, their survival may be put at risk. Please contact either of the numbers listed above for more information

Wildlife Management & Hunter Ed
Great Swamp Headquarters
277 Great Neck Rd., West Kingston 02892
Phone: (401) 789-0281

Education Center
1B Camp E-Hun-Tee Place, Exeter 02822
Phone: (401) 539-0019