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Spring Season Brings the Next Generation of Wildlife

fawn in tall grass

It’s spring, and baby animals are out and about as wildlife is giving birth and hatching the next generation. Baby red foxes are being spotted, and the first litters of cottontails will soon appear. Great-horned owls have already hatched and are growing up in stick nests high above the ground. Mourning doves have made nests and some have already laid eggs. Soon there will be nestlings and baby critters all over the place – the natural cycle for population replenishment is at work.

The Department of Natural Resources encourages people to get outside and enjoy the wildlife sightings and experiences. Seeing wild animals raising their young is a magical moment, but it is important to remember to remain at a distance. Sometimes, unfortunately, the story has a different ending when people take baby animals out of the wild.

“Please resist the urge to try to help seemingly abandoned fawns or other baby animals this spring,” said DNR wildlife biologist Steve Griffith. “Some people truly are trying to be helpful, while others think wild animals would make good pets. In most cases, neither of those situations ends well for the wildlife.

fawn video thumbnail”We appreciate the good intentions of those who want to help, but the animals are better off left alone than removed from the wild,” said Griffith. “The species that are most problematic are white-tailed deer and raccoons.fawn video thumbnail

“Deer seem so vulnerable and helpless but really they stay still because that is a mechanism to let them be undetected. Raccoons seem cute and cuddly but they grow up to be mischievous and aggressive. It’s best to just leave them alone.”

It is not uncommon for deer to leave their fawns unattended for up to eight hours at a time. This behavior minimizes the scent of the mother left around the fawn and allows the fawn to go undetected from nearby predators. While fawns may seem abandoned, they almost certainly are not. All wild white-tailed deer begin life this way.

Other wildlife, such as birds, should not be handled either. “Adult birds will continue to care for hatchlings that have fallen from their nest,” said Griffith. “Although most birds do not have a keen sense of smell, it is best to leave them alone, too. If you move them, the adults may not be able to locate and care for them.”

The DNR advises:

It is illegal to possess a live wild animal, including deer, in Michigan. Every day an animal spends with humans makes it less likely to be able to survive in the wild.

Many baby animals will die if removed from their natural environment, and some have diseases or parasites that can be passed on to humans or pets.

Some “rescued” animals that do survive become habituated to people and are unable to revert back to life in the wild.

Eventually, habituated animals pose additional problems as they mature and develop adult animal behaviors. Habituated deer, especially bucks, can become aggressive as they mature. Raccoons are well known for this as well.

“Licensed wildlife rehabilitators are trained to handle and care for wild animals. They know the peculiarities of diet for the birds and animals they assist. They also know how to release them so they can survive in the wild,” said Griffith. “If you know of a deer or other animal that has truly been orphaned – and remember, most are not – a licensed rehabilitator may be able to help.”

For a list of licensed rehabilitators visit www.michigandnr.com/dlr or call your local DNR office

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