Help young wildlife out by leaving it alone

STATESMAN STAFFMay 21, 2014 

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You can fawn over a fawn if you see it in the woods, but with all young wildlife, it's best left alone. If you think it's abandoned, it's probably not, and "rescuing" it does more harm than good.

PETE ZIMOWSKY — Idaho Statesman file

Spring is offspring season with most birds and animals busy with the task of raising their young.

That's why Idaho Fish and Game is telling people to leave wildlife alone if they encounter it during their outings.

It's a time of year when well-intentioned folks find "abandoned" critters and bring them by Fish and Game offices, or call biologists with questions about how to care for their new discoveries.

Most wildlife picked up by well-meaning citizens die in captivity, the agency said. The dietary needs and other needs are highly specialized and difficult to mimic sufficiently, according to Fish and Game.

Should they beat the odds and survive, they face a hostile world with no survival skills. A lifetime in captivity is likely their fate, Fish and Game said.

The list of young animals that are dropped off at F&G offices this time of the year includes baby robins, young red-tailed hawks, fawn mule deer, calf elk, baby raccoons, and baby rabbits.

The unfortunate part of these well-intended "rescues" is most times, the animal was not lost, abandoned, or orphaned in the first place.

As baby birds mature, they often leave the nest in their efforts to hone their flying skills. Adult birds continue to feed their offspring until the fledglings can survive on their own.

If you are fortunate enough to encounter a wild baby, appreciate it, but leave it alone. Chances are very good its parents are nearby, waiting for you to leave.

Resisting the urge to pick up young wildlife helps ensure it will remain wild.

Once an animal is removed from the wild, Fish and Game has only three alternatives.

• The agency can attempt to locate a professional wildlife rehabilitator who might be able to raise the animal to the point that it can be released back into the wild. This is both difficult and costly.

• Life in a zoo, hardly the place for a wild animal.

And finally, many animals brought to Fish and Game offices must be euthanized because they can't be cared for.

Fish and Game says:

• If a baby bird, rabbit, squirrel or other critter is found, the best approach is to leave it undisturbed.

• The animal should only be moved if it is in harm's way (wandering in the road, for instance).

• Placing baby birds in a shrub or on a tree branch will help them avoid house cats.

• Don't fret about getting your scent on a baby bird. The myth that birds will abandon their offspring once humans have handled them is just that: myth. Most birds lack a sense of smell.

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