WILDLIFE ORPHANS MAY NOT BE ORPHANS AFTER ALL
Wildlife officials encourage people not to pick up young animals
AKRON, OH – The ODNR Division of Wildlife has some very strong advice for well-meaning people who pick up baby or injured wild animals. Please leave them alone!
Every year, wildlife officers, biologists, and licensed rehabilitators attempt to educate local residents and every year it is wild animals that become victims to human actions. Fascination with cute, seemingly helpless, animals causes even the most reasonable person to forget that it is a wild animal capable of biting, scratching, and transmitting diseases and parasites to humans and domestic animals.
State and federal laws protect and regulate wildlife and endangered species in Ohio. Only persons under special permit issued by the Division of Wildlife may possess a native wild animal. Specially trained and licensed volunteer rehabilitators provide care to orphaned or injured animals.
“When a biologist or officer receives a call regarding a fawn for example, the first thing they suggest is to take the animal back to where it was found,” stated Scott Peters, assistant wildlife management supervisor for northeast Ohio. “Many wild animals are raised by only one adult or are not attended during the daylight hours by the parents. In some situations it may seem as though the young have been abandoned by the parents, but that is rarely the case. A doe will hide her young from predators by leaving it alone in a secluded spot, such as a grassy meadow or a flower bed. A hidden fawn has virtually no scent and when left alone is difficult for predators to find. The doe attends to the fawn several times each night,” continued Peters.
According to Peters, many people contact the Division of Wildlife after they have had the animal several weeks and it has become weak from malnutrition as the result of an improper diet. “While there is a minute possibility a trained wildlife rehabilitator can save the animal, in most cases it is too late.”
Many people believe once young wildlife has been touched or handled by humans the mother will no longer have anything to do with it. This is not so.
Handling wild animals is discouraged for human safety as well as safety for the wild animal. Wildlife can carry parasites or diseases. Handling stresses the animal, and excessive handling can make the animal defensive or can ultimately contribute to its death.
Once young wildlife have been taken from the wild and habituated to humans, the animal is never again able to function normally in the wild. When they reach sexual maturity and exhibit natural aggressive behavior, their captors usually abandon them. As a result of dependence on humans for food and care, they become nuisance animals and suffer fatal consequences.
Along with the warning to leave young and injured wildlife alone, the Division of Wildlife offers the following advice:
• Think before you act. Check for nests before cutting down trees or clearing brush. It is best to cut trees and clear brush in the autumn when nesting season is over.
• Use common sense. If you disturb a nest, replace the animals and the nest material to the original location or as close as possible. If you find a fawn, leave it where you find it. The mother has likely hidden it there and will be returning to feed it.
• Keep pets under control so they do not raid nests and injure wild animals. Keep pets inoculated against parasites and diseases.
• Educate children to respect wildlife and their habitat. Emphasize to your children not to catch, handle, or harass wild animals.
• Contact your local wildlife officer or wildlife district office before taking action. Trust and follow the advice of these trained professionals. Call 1-800-WILDLIFE to be connected with the proper individuals.