Biologists urge caution when spotting young wild animals – Washington Daily News
RALEIGH – Biologists at the NC Wildlife Resources Commission’s NC Wildlife Helpline handle a glut of calls every spring and summer about fledgling fawns, rabbits and songbirds that people find and consider abandoned or endangered. Well-meaning people often endanger young wild animals when they intervene in a wild animal’s natural growth process.
“In the majority of these cases, the mother does not feed nearby and will return when no predators are nearby, and that includes people,” said Falyn Owens, extension biologist at the Wildlife Commission. “Most young animals spend a lot of time alone, before they even seem able to fend for themselves. When the mother returns, sometimes several hours later, she expects to find her young near where she left them.
Owens advises that if you really feel the animal needs help, the best thing to do is leave it alone (or put it back) and call a wildlife rehabilitator for advice.
Deer use a “hidden” strategy for the first two or three weeks of their life. At the doe’s signal, fawns instinctively find a quiet place to lie down and stay put. There they will usually remain stationary for several hours as the doe wanders away to feed. The fawns have a spotted coat and no scent, so they easily hide in the undergrowth, making it difficult for predators such as coyotes and bobcats to find them.
If you find a calm fawn that doesn’t appear injured, leave it there and check it out the next day. If he is still there and bleating loudly, appears thin, injured, or has visible diarrhea, contact a licensed fawn rehabilitator for advice.
“If you take a fawn out of the wild but a little time has passed, put it back where you found it,” Owens said. “A doe will usually try to find their missing fawn for about 48 hours before giving up. After 48 hours, or if you have fed the fawn, contact a fawn rehabilitator as soon as possible.
Newborn rabbits spend their first few weeks hiding in plain sight, in shallow earthen nests among tufts of thick grass, under shrubs, or among open lawns. Nests can be difficult to spot, often resembling a small patch of dead grass. Like the deer, the doe will leave her kits alone most of the time, only going for a few minutes at a time, once or twice a day.
“We get a lot of calls from people who think they’ve found an abandoned rabbit nest, when in fact the kits are perfect and are quietly waiting for the rabbit to return,” Owens said. “If they appear to be healthy and unharmed, the best thing to do is cover the nest and leave. The mother will not come back until you leave the area. “
Knowing the difference between a brood and a young can help you make the right decision if you see one on the ground. The chicks do not yet have their feathers and cannot survive for long outside their nests. The chicks have left the nest, have their feathers on and are able to walk, jump or fly short distances. They too are looked after by parents – but usually from a distance.
“If you find a nest on the ground, return it to the nest as quickly as possible, if you are able to find it,” Owens said. “If the whole nest has fallen, you can put it back in the tree, or even build a makeshift nest.”
The chicks, however, should be left alone in most cases. They have grown too large for the nest and are learning to fly and survive on their own. If they are not clearly injured or in immediate danger, let them do it. Like human toddlers, they need to explore to acquire the muscles and coordination necessary to grow into graceful adults. Keeping cats indoors and dogs on a leash is the best way to ensure that these young birds go through this vulnerable learning stage.
Obeyed the law
Leaving young wild animals alone is not only part of responsible stewardship of nature, it is also the law.
“Taking most wildlife out of the wild and in your possession is illegal,” Owens said. “People usually have good intentions when they decide to help an ‘abandoned baby animal,’ but it usually does more harm than good. The chances of a young wild animal surviving human care are slim. Even those who live long enough to be released usually lack the skills to survive on their own. “
Owens stresses the importance of never feeding young wild animals, which can lead to irreversible damage to the animal.
“If in doubt, contact a professional before doing anything,” she advises. “Every spring, wildlife rehabilitators welcome a large number of young people who are malnourished, who suffer from severe intestinal distress due to poor nutrition or who are injured due to inadequate nutrition.
And don’t worry if you touch a fawn, an immature rabbit, or a bird. Wild parents hardly ever abandon their young, even if they detect human scent.