Albany, NY (WIBX) - "If you care, leave it there." That's the phrase the Department of Environmental Conservation wants you to keep in mind if you come across a small wild animal.

According to Stephen Litwhiler, with the DEC, animals will leave their young in secluded areas to protect them from predators. But, those places may also be near people who want to help the so-called "helpless" animal.

"People often do find animals that they think have been orphaned, abandoned or whatever," Litwhiler said. "In the vast majority of cases, that is just not true."

Litwhiler says the best thing to do is keep your distance, because human interaction tends to cause more harm than good.

"Because of disease concerns, animals like raccoons, skunks and possums should never be handled," Litwhiler said.

If you do come across a young animal whose parent is known to be dead, call the DEC or a local wildlife control specialist.

Also, do not move the animal or take it home with you. Keeping wildlife as a pet is never encouraged and is illegal in New York.

For more information and a link to the DEC's "Frequently Asked Questions," click here.