If you stumble upon a young animal outdoors, your instinct may be to save it. But by placing your hands on it or especially by removing it from its natural environment, you are likely causing more harm than good. Babies are often left unattended while their mother feeds. Even if they have strayed, she’s likely to find them. It’s best to leave young wildlife alone.
Young wildlife is rarely abandoned. The mother is most likely nearby. It can take a day or more for her to return, but chances are she will. Now, of course, there are situations where she won’t. Perhaps the mother has been injured or killed and you are aware of it. Like a vehicle collision. The best thing you can do in this situation is call your local game warden or conservation agent.
My mother’s father was a conservation agent in Northwest Indiana back in the 1960s. I have a number of old photos of my mother and aunt playing with raccoons, possums and other critters. She said her father would be called to collect and remove the animals from perilous situations. But they never stayed more than a day, as he would take them to a natural area and release them back into wild. Mom says she would cry, begging her dad to let her keep one, but he’d tell her those animals belong outdoors, in the woods where they can be wild.
Disney and other productions have humanized wildlife over the years, making many believe wild animals are all tame little, cuddly creatures. That’s not usually the case. Most have teeth and claws, and food doesn’t come easy. They need to be left to develop the necessary skills to feed and fend for themselves.
Here are some rules of thumb from the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission regarding wildlife babies:
- BIRDS: Young non-feathered birds and nests with eggs discovered on the ground should be placed back in the tree. Baby birds covered in feathers found on the ground are being tended to by their parents; leave them alone.
- DEER: A lone fawn may appear to be abandoned or injured, but the mother frequently is off feeding or drinking. Do not move it. The longer the fawn is separated from its mother, the slimmer the chance it will be reunited with her. Know it is normal for a doe to leave its fawn to keep it from being detected by predators. Predators can see the doe as it feeds, so she leaves the fawn hidden and leaves the area to draw attention away from the fawn’s location.
- RABBITS: Baby rabbits are left unattended through much of the day and night. Mother cottontails do this to prevent drawing predators to the nest. If you see the rabbits, leave them alone.
Wildlife should not be raised as pets. These wild creatures belong in nature where they can act and behave the way they were intended to. Keeping them to raise in captivity is a bad plan. They will mature and behave like wild animals. If you then return them to the wild, they likely won’t survive. If that’s not enough to convince you to leave wildlife in the wild, then remember, most wildlife is protected by state or federal law so it is illegal to possess them.
See you down the trail…
Pic: If you find a baby animal, leave it alone. The mother is likely close and will return. (Photo Credit: Missouri Department of Conservation)
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