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Leave Wild Animals Where They Belong

Fish & Wildlife - Region 6

Tue Jun 29 00:00:00 MDT 2010

If you care, leave them there. That’s the advice wildlife managers give to anyone who finds a fawn or any other “orphaned” animal outdoors.

If you spot a young animal that seems to be separated from its mother, what should you do? The best decision is to leave them where you find them, because when humans interfere with nature, a natural situation can quickly turn into a real problem. It’s also illegal to possess and care for a live animal taken from the wild.

Usually, young animals picked up by people can’t be rehabilitated, and they are often abandoned by adult animals once human scent is transferred to them. Wildlife managers say young deer, elk and antelope are rarely orphaned. For the first few weeks of its life, the calf or fawn has to hide because it cannot outrun predators. Its mother typically returns a few times a day to feed it, then leaves it alone.

“With little ones on the ground now, the opportunity to see fawns or other young animals has increased,” said Todd Tryan a Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) warden based in Glasgow. “Their best chance of survival is to be left alone on the ground.”

Should someone bring a fawn to FWP, it will be requested that the animal be taken back to the site where it was found.  If that isn’t possible, the fawn will be euthanized. FWP also asks that other wildlife species, such as birds and small mammals, be left in the wild. 

To protect Montana’s deer and elk from the impending threat of chronic wasting disease (CWD), FWP no longer accepts, holds, or rehabilitates deer and elk. This change in policy is necessary because:  

  • CWD, a fatal neurological disease that affects deer and elk, is spreading in the United States and Canada. CWD has yet to be documented in wild populations in Montana, but it is found in nearby states and provinces.
  • Wildlife health experts believe it is only a matter of time before CWD is found in Montana.   The agency is developing a CWD action plan to be implemented should CWD be documented in the wild here.
  • An infected animal housed at FWP’s rehabilitation center—or any holding facility—could potentially spread CWD from there back into the wild.