Monday, May 9, 2011

Your best option: Leave baby wildlife alone

Spring is the season for young wildlife: Baby rabbits and birds abound, and elk calves and deer fawns hide in the brush while the mother forages.

As hard as it is, usually the best thing to do the next time you see baby wildlife that appears orphaned is to leave it alone. Stand back and observe the situation, but most of the time the human desire to help or “rescue” baby, orphaned, or injured wildlife can have unintended consequences for the animal, including death.

Follow these guidelines if you find one of the following baby animals:

Rabbit -- Baby rabbits are usually found under something such as old boards, bushes, or within debris piles. Mother rabbits only feed their babies a few times a day, usually at dawn and dusk. If you find a baby rabbit, carefully re-cover the nest and leave them alone. If your pet finds a baby rabbit, try to return it to its nest if it is not injured.

Elk calves or deer fawns – Fawns and calves are often hidden in vegetation and left alone by their mothers for several hours. If a fawn or calf attempts to follow you, gently push on its shoulders until it lies down. Young elk or deer that have been removed from the wild are rarely able to be released back into the wild. Limited space at appropriate facilities and disease concerns make it very difficult to find homes for hand-raised deer and elk orphans.

Birds – Baby birds (fledglings) without fully developed flight feathers are often seen fluttering from branch to branch, or from the ground to low branches. Leaving the nest to practice flying is a natural part of a baby bird’s development. Placing a fully-feathered baby back into its nest typically does not work, and the young bird will usually leave again. Fledglings should be left alone and moved only if it is at risk of immediate injury or death. If moved, the young bird should be placed on nearby vegetation as close as possible to the nest site or the location where it was first noticed.

If you find a baby bird that is not fully feathered or its eyes are closed, return the bird to its nest. If it is not possible to access the nest or it was damaged in the fall, place the nestling in an artificial nest at a lower location as close as possible to the original location. Artificial nests can be made from a small basket or box lined with dry grass, soft cloth or shredded paper.

Minimal human handling will not discourage the parents from caring for a baby bird if people and pets stay away. The parents may be wary of the new location or nest, and might take a few hours before they approach.

It can be difficult to know if a wild animal, young or old, is truly injured and in need of help. Signs of an injured wild animal include:
Protruding bones or bleeding.
Flies, maggots, or other parasites on the body.
Unable to move away from threats like moving cars, pets, or people.
Lethargic, no fear of threats, or uncoordinated movement.
Inability to fly or stand upright.

Removing a wild animal from its habitat and rearing it in captivity should only occur if absolutely necessary, like in cases where the animal is injured or attempts to encourage parental care have failed. Although it may seem more humane to “rescue” an animal, wildlife reared in captivity or babies raised without the benefit of learning from their parents, have a greatly reduced chance of survival when and if they are released back into the wild. Even animals or birds with severe injuries are potentially dangerous.

If you find baby wildlife that meets the criteria of possibly being injured or truly orphaned, contact the nearest AGFD office for guidance on what to do.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great info! These situations are all too common in Rim Country.