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Deer fawn

Conservation > Living with Wildlife Injured & Orphaned Wildlife

Help us keep wild animals wild!

Orphaned animal graphic
Nature provides wildlife with the best options for survival and a better quality of life. They have plenty of natural resources (food, water, shelter, space) and thrive better without the stress that captivity and the presence of human’s places on them. FWP prefers to leave wildlife in the wild and believes that animals thrive better in their natural environment. 

Though FWP focuses mainly on landscape-level habitat and wildlife populations, in some cases individual injured or orphaned animals can be cared for at the agency’s Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Helena.

WHO CAN REHABILITATE WHAT

Montana WILD's Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Helena rehabilitates wild birds, bears, bobcat, mountain lions, and other small mammals that are less than 1 years-old. It does not accept the following: ungulates (deer, elk, moose), canids (fox and wolf), or any rabies vectors: https://dphhs.mt.gov/publichealth/cdepi/diseases/rabies

If you find an animal that is clearly injured or in distress, do NOT touch the animal. Call the Wildlife Center for advice on how to proceed, 406-431-1110.

 

No wildlife rehabilitators in the state, including the FWP’s MT WILD Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, are permitted to rehabilitate:

  • Ungulates (deer, elk, and moose). This is due to diseases such as chronic wasting disease, brucellosis, and bovine tuberculosis. These diseases can significantly reduce the size and health of Montana’s wild ungulate populations.

  • Canids (wolf, coyotes, and fox). Even young ones are dangerous and can carry diseases that transfer to domestic dogs. They should not be handled except by trained professionals such as wardens and biologists. If you think you have found an orphaned canid, please call the closest FWP Regional office to speak to a biologist or warden.

  • Non-protected Bird Species: Pigeons, house sparrows, Eurasian-collared doves, and starlings

  • Rabies vector species: https://dphhs.mt.gov/publichealth/cdepi/diseases/rabies

These facilities are permited to rehabilitate raptors such as hawks, owls and eagles: 

  • Helena area - Montana WILD | 406-431-1110

  • Bozeman area - Montana Raptor Conservation Center | 406-484-1211

  • Missoula area - Wild Skies Raptor Center | 406-244-5422

  • Kallispell - Montana Wild Wings Recovery Center | 406-250-1070

IS THIS ANIMAL REALLY ORPHANED?

Oftentimes people think they are rescuing an orphaned animal; however, it is important to realize that wildlife care for their young much differently than humans. They have strategies to provide the highest chance of survival for their young.

One strategy that some species, particularly those species that are more commonly seen as prey (deer, rabbits, birds), use is to distance themselves from their young for many hours at a time. This helps to keep predators away from their young. For example, fawns are born without a scent and it is safer for them if their mother, who has a scent, is not nearby. This also can potentially distract a predator into focusing on the doe vs. their offspring.

There are several reasons you should not approach or pick up a baby animal. Humans are seen as predators to these species so your presence will keep the parent away for longer. Many of these animals also carry diseases or parasites that could put you or your pets in harm.

 

What can you do?

  • Leave it there. It’s natural for deer, elk, rabbits and birds to leave their young alone for extended periods of time.

  • Control your dog. Keep your dog under control, especially in the spring when newborn wildlife is most vulnerable. Pet owners can be cited and dogs that harass or kill wildlife may by law have to be destroyed.

  • Keep cats indoors. Many birds nest and feed on the ground. Young birds are also learning how to fly, making them vulnerable to cats. The bacteria in cat saliva are toxic to birds, so even if a cat does not immediately kill a bird, its bite often leads to infection and death.

  • Keep in mind. It is illegal to possess and care for a live animal taken from the wild.

Call Montana WILD. If you are unsure if an animal needs help, call the Montana WILD Wildlife Rehabilitation Center at 406-431-1110

Ungulates - deer, moose, and elk

No wildlife rehabilitators in the state, including the FWP Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, are permitted to rehabilitate ungulates, such as deer, elk, and moose, due to diseases such as chronic wasting disease, brucellosis, and bovine tuberculosis. These diseases can significantly reduce the size and health of ungulate populations. Bringing orphaned or injured ungulates into a rehabilitation center with the intent for later release could introduce a disease into populations where it was not present. In addition, these animals tend to habituate quickly and can cause problems after release.

Very few “orphaned” ungulates are actually orphaned. The parent settles them in a spot, and the young survive by staying very still until the parent indicates it is okay to move. The parent will typically stay out of sight to keep predators from finding the fawn from her smell or presence.

  • If the assumed orphan is bedded without a parent in sight, leave the animal and the area. Parents will leave their young for extended periods of time and will be less likely to return to an area with a predator (aka human) present.

  • Keep children and pets away from the area until the young animal has left; this will maximize the chance that the parent will return and minimize the stress to the calf or fawn.

  • If the parent is dead on sight, notify the local warden or biologist.

  • If the calf or fawn is perceived to be sick or injured, notify the local warden or biologist so that the situation may be monitored.

Birds

May be an image of bird and nature

Does this bird need your help? At first glance you might think yes, but in fact this is a healthy young Gray Catbird who is just learning to fly from the ground up. Moments after this photo was taken, a parent swooped down to check on and feed this youngster a fat caterpillar. When healthy young birds like this get brought into people’s homes or to our wildlife center, it greatly reduces their chance of survival. It is almost always best to leave baby birds alone.

 

What can you do?

  • Leave it there. It’s natural for birds to kick their young out of the nest before they can fly. They will continue to feed and care for their young as long as predators (like humans) keep their distance.

  • Control your dog. Keep your dog under control, especially in the spring when newborn wildlife is most vulnerable. Pet owners can be cited and dogs that harass or kill wildlife may by law have to be destroyed.

  • Keep cats indoors. Many birds nest and feed on the ground. Young birds are also learning how to fly, making them vulnerable to cats. The bacteria in cat saliva are toxic to birds, so even if a cat does not immediately kill a bird, its bite often leads to infection and death.

  • Move the bird to a safe place. If the bird is in an area that is unsafe (near a road, in a window well, etc.), it is okay to put them in a safe zone as close to the original location as possible so the parent can find them. For you and your pet’s safety, and the bird’s safety, do not move them without taking proper precautions such as using gloves or indirect contact through a thick blanket or towel to limit spread of disease or parasites.

  • Keep in mind. It is illegal to possess and care for a live animal taken from the wild. Under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act “No person may take (kill), possess, import, export, transport, sell, purchase, barter, or offer for sale, any migratory bird, or the parts, nests, or eggs of such bird except as may be permitted under the terms of a valid permit.”

Call Montana WILD. If you are unsure if an animal needs help, call the Montana WILD Wildlife Rehabilitation Center 406-431-1110

Roadkill or Other Dead Animals

FWP does not respond to general roadkill or deceased animal complaints unless it is a specific species of concern such as bighorn sheep, eagle, or grizzly bear, a confirmed poaching incident, a disease issue, electricution or an issue of public safety.

If the dead animal is causing an immediate safety concern (mountain lion, bear, wolf, etc. feeding on the carcass) call your local FWP office.


Options:
  • Contact your local road department (city/county/state/HOA) depending on road ownership.

  • Remove and dispose of the animal yourself using proper personal protection equipment (PPE) such as gloves, mask, etc. 

  • Pay a private animal control company to remove it.

  • Leave it to decompose.

Wildlife Possession by Private Citizens – It’s a Bad Idea

  • The potential to spread wildlife diseases between populations, species, humans, and pets is a good reason to leave young wildlife alone. Baby ground squirrels, racoons, and rabbits can carry zoonotic diseases. Zoonotic diseases can be transmitted to humans and pets! Examples include plague, hemorrhagic diseases, and tularemia.

  • Scared, cornered, or trapped wildlife can cause serious injury to inexperienced non-professionals.

  • As a wildlife agency, FWP’s priority is to keep wild animals wild. When people take possession of and raise elk, deer, or other wildlife that animal can become habituated to humans. Habituated animals can cause serious problems once released. Habituated animals typically lack the natural skills and fears necessary for survival in the wild and often seek out inappropriate resources for food, shelter, and protection.

  • FWP wants wildlife to have the best quality of life and treatment if taken in for rehabilitation. While the internet is a good resource for researching information on wildlife, it is often not a good source to learn about how to rehabilitate and care for wildlife. There is a lot of misinformation out there! Veterinary care is often needed and can be expensive.

  • Feeding wildlife the wrong diet, not recognizing serious conditions, or handling them inappropriately cause irreparable damage or death to the animal.

  • It is illegal to possess most wildlife species without appropriate permits.

  • Wildlife require specialized care and diets. Obtaining a permit ensures that you have the training, skills, housing, and equipment to properly care for wildlife.

  • Licensed wildlife rehabilitators have specialized training and access to resources such as X-ray machines, laboratories, and medicines that the general public typically do not have.