The best thing you can do for young wildlife is to keep young wildlife wild.
Springtime is when people begin to see a variety of newborn and young animals. Newborn rabbits, squirrels, deer and birds easily appeal to most people’s sense of care and compassion. People often think these baby animals are “so cute” and imagine that they must be lost or abandoned.
Usually that is not the case.
“Chances are an adult animal is nearby and is simply waiting on you to move away so they can take care of their young,” said Mark Howery, natural resource biologist with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
In most cases, people should not interfere with young wildlife.
In Oklahoma, most fawns are born in May and June. And that’s when people begin seeing the young animals.
Game Warden Brayden Hicks, based in Caddo County, said he has taken several calls from the public asking him to rescue a fawn found near a home. “I tell them don’t touch the fawn, and don’t try to feed it. Normally the momma is around, and she’s left her fawn on purpose so she can go feed.”
The doe leaves the fawn because it must maintain good nutrition to produce milk. Also, the doe will often leave a fawn in a safe place, such as near a house or where people can easily see them, because those are places where predators might be less likely to visit.
Also, the doe will stay away from its fawn so the doe’s scent will not attract predators. But the doe will normally return several times during the day to nurse its fawn.
Howery said springtime storms can easily blow young birds and squirrels out of their nests. Even though they may appear to be alone and distressed or in need of help, a mature animal will often find and care for them.
It can actually be more stressful on young wildlife when people try to help. People who take in wildlife and attempt to raise and release those animals are actually doing them no favors. The animals will lose their instinctual fear of people and begin to bond with and depend on people to survive. If returned to nature later, these animals will have no idea how to feed or what dangers to avoid. And the young animal could even die from the stress of being handled.
“It’s admirable when well-meaning sportsmen and outdoor enthusiasts want to help, but sometimes the best help we can offer young wildlife is to leave them alone and let nature run its course,” Howery said.
In rare cases, an animal might actually need help, such as when it is injured or seriously ill. That is when the public might choose to call a wildlife rehabilitator. A list of rehabilitators by county is at www.wildlifedepartment.com/law/rehabilitator-list.
For Texas, more information is available at the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department or 1-800-792-1112.
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