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Don't Disturb Young Wildlife


Fri May 26 00:00:00 MDT 2000

Spring is a time of renewal in the wild. For many, newborn wildlife is irresistible, and many well-meaning people are tempted to "help" when the best thing they can do is leave the young alone.

Born in May and June, many young wild animals appear to be abandoned and helpless, or seem to be lost. Young wildlife are not helpless and are rarely abandoned. Most often the mother is only temporarily away or is keeping a short distance away to avoid attracting attention to her young. Some wildlife parents will go to great lengths to distract attention from their young. A common bird named for its call, the killdeer, will mimic injury and flutter about to draw intruders away from its nest. Under these circumstances the discovery of the killdeer nest, with its three soft, fuzzy babes, may lead someone to believe the young ones won't make it with a crippled parent.

In many cases, people take young wildlife in the hopes the animal will be a pet. Few wild animals become completely tame and many wild animals, whether taken to "help," or for pets, often end up the responsibility of Fish, Wildlife & Parks.

What should you do if you discover an apparently abandoned wild animal? In most cases, leave it alone. Just touching or picking them up may cause the mother to reject them because of the human scent. Birds, however, cannot smell well, and fledglings may be carefully returned to their nest. FWP should be notified of young wildlife that have been orphaned because the mother was killed.

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. Orphaned wildlife can only be handled by FWP and there is nothing in the law to delegate this authority to anyone else. State law also prohibits people from having wild animals that may have rabies such as fox, raccoons, skunks and bats. Springtime brings new life, and a chance for year's wild young to live their entire lives in the wild.