Autumn Wildlife Encounters

wildlife, nature, animal, reptile, snake, Wilson Hall, building, A snake tans itself on the pedestrian path to Wilson Hall.

A snake tans itself on the pedestrian path to Wilson Hall. Photo: Krzysztof Kompiel

Many animals are on the move in fall to find a safe place to spend winter. During this time, you are more likely to find an animal trying to seek shelter in and around buildings or in protected areas. What should you do if you find an animal inside a building or in an unusual spot outdoors?

A man wearing sunglasses, a backwards cap and a reflective yellow vest holds a turtle. He has one hand under the shell and one holding the back of the shell. Its mouth cannot reach his hands.

On June 23, 2021, Ryan Frantzen, a Roads and Grounds employee at Fermilab, correctly handles a spiny softshell turtle that Fermilab scientist Jean-Paul Carneiro found crossing the road. Photo: Jean-Paul Carneiro

First, please remember that the animal is scared of an interaction with a person because it is a situation where the animal can easily be injured. Making an animal feel threatened increases the likelihood that it will defend itself, so do not corner or hover over it.

Note that the type of animal found determines the course of action. If the animal in question is a reptile, amphibian or bird, follow the instructions below.

If the animal is a mammal, do not intervene; simply contact the Roads and Grounds department. Although unlikely, mammals carry many more diseases that are transferrable to humans (rabies, for example), and they are also more likely to bite while defending themselves.

Try to limit the exposure time to the animal, and move it quickly to a safe location. If the animal is inside a building, it needs to be taken back outside to a better location. If it is something the finder feels comfortable doing, they can relocate the animal outside—but only if it can be done safely for both the animal and person.

If the person is not comfortable with moving the animal, or again, if it is a mammal, please contact the Roads and Grounds department at x3303.

If the animal is outdoors and not causing any harm, please leave it be. If it needs to be moved, follow the advice above.

If it is in an unusual spot outdoors for that species (such as a bird sitting below a window or an owl out in the open during daylight), looks disoriented, or is injured, regardless of the type of animal it is, please contact the Roads and Grounds Department as soon as possible. They may request assistance from the site ecologist to determine the injury and if the animal can be transported to a wildlife rehabilitation center to recover.

Please do not feed or give water to wildlife, injured or otherwise. If you have questions, please contact Wally Levernier at