Fish and Game: Leave young animals in the wild

The Enterprise

SALEM – Spring means wildlife are bearing their young, and state wildlife officials are reminding people to give them space and leave the young’uns alone.

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife notes that May and June are the months when many newborn animals are getting their start in the wild.

The agency is joined by Oregon State Police in cautioning against taking young animals out of the wild – It’s not only against the law, but it’s also bad for the animal. Such animals miss the chance to learn important survival skills from their parents like where to feed, what to eat, and how to escape from predators.

Often the human interference is well-intentioned but misguided. Every spring, wildlife officials across the state get calls from people concerned about “orphaned” deer fawns, elk calves, seal pups and other animals they find alone.

However, the mother animal is usually just off feeding not far away. She will return soon, so people should back off and leave the animal alone.

“People often pick up animals they find alone out of good intentions, without realizing they may be sentencing the animal to an early death by removing it from its natural environment and its parents,” said Julia Burco, ODFW wildlife veterinarian.

“Never assume one of a young animal is orphaned unless you saw the parent killed,” she said. If an animal is injured, or truly orphaned, it needs special care.

Before picking up any wild animal, call ODFW, Oregon State Police, or a wildlife rehabilitator for advice. Removing or “capturing” an animal from the wild and keeping it in captivity without a permit is against state law, as is transporting many animals. Last year, seven people were cited for such offenses.

Follow these tips if you encounter young animals in the wild:

• Deer, elk and other mammals: Never assume an animal is orphaned. Don’t remove it from the forest, including your backyard. Female deer and elk and other mammals will often leave their young temporarily for safety reasons or to feed elsewhere. They will return when it is safe to do so, as when people, dogs, or predators are not present.

• Note that bunnies are rarely orphaned; mother rabbits only visit den sites at dusk and dawn to feed the young.

• Keep your dog or cat away from young wildlife, especially in the spring.

• Birds: Leave fledgling birds alone. It is natural for fledgling (mostly feathered) birds to be awkward while learning how to fly.

If you see one on the ground, leave it alone and keep your distance. Bring your pets under control and indoors if possible. The mother bird will feed it for several days on the ground until it “gets its wings.