Early each summer a new year's young wildlife start off with the chance to live their entire lives in the wild. For too many creatures this chance is short lived when well-meaning people are tempted to "help" nature.
"Too often humans think of wild young such as bear cubs, deer fawns and mountain lion kittens as they would domestic puppies or kittens found in the woods," said Kurt Cunningham, FWP Education Bureau Chief. "Of course, as caring humans, it is just natural to want to rescue an animal we think is abandoned. However, the majority of the time that is not the case."
For example, Cunningham said it is common practice for deer and elk to bed their young down and leave them during the day to avoid predation.
"Humans can never replace the care given young in the wild," Cunningham said. "Quite often well meaning people put us in the difficult position of trying to save a critter that never should have been taken in the first place.
It is costly and time consuming to raise, rehabilitate and release young wildlife and to do it successfully is part science and part art, Cunningham said. FWP is upgrading the agency's rehabilitation efforts, working through a private partnership, to develop a new facility, the Montana Wildlife Rehabilitation and Education Center in Helena.
"Even with this new facility, it is important for people to keep in mind that humans can never replace a wild parent," he said.
What should you do if you discover an apparently abandoned wild animal? Contact an FWP official before doing anything, Cunningham advises. In most cases the animal isn't abandoned. Even young birds can be put back in the nest as the adults are normally near by.
It is illegal to possess or remove from the wild any game animal, game bird, songbird, furbearers or birds of prey and fines may be levied for such violations. For public safety, state law also prohibits people from having wild animals that may have rabies such as fox, raccoons, skunks and bats.
"An FWP office should be contacted immediately in cases where infant wildlife are truly orphaned," Cunningham said.