Mark Ellingwood: (603) 271-2461
Lt. Bruce Bonenfant: (603) 271-3127
May 15, 2008
Keep Wildlife Wild - Leave Young Animals Alone
CONCORD, N.H. -- If you encounter wildlife, even young animals that appear to need help, the kindest (and safest) thing to do is to leave them alone and let nature take its course, officials from the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department said today.
This time of year, many people call Fish and Game reporting that they have picked up young animals, thinking they are orphans. "Picking up fawns, baby raccoons or young animals is an error in judgment," says Fish and Game Lt. Bruce Bonenfant. "People think they're doing a good deed, but they are often removing the animal from the care of its parents and exposing themselves to the risk of disease. What's more, these actions may result in the animal having to be euthanized for rabies testing."
Young wild animals (including mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians) have their best chance of surviving when they are in their own natural environment, says Fish and Game Wildlife Programs Administrator Mark Ellingwood. What should you do if you find a young animal? "Give wildlife plenty of space and leave them alone and in the wild, where they belong," he said.
Seeing a fawn alone, for example, does NOT mean that it is orphaned or that it needs our help. Ellingwood explains that it is normal for a doe to leave her fawn alone while she goes off to feed in the early morning and evening hours. In many cases, the doe will not return until nightfall. "Fawns are not defenseless creatures. Their cryptic coloration, tendency to stay perfectly still and lack of scent, are all adaptations that help them survive," he said. Does are easy to detect because of their size and scent, so they generally keep a distance from their fawns, except during brief nursing bouts, so that predators don't key in on them. "This hands-off policy also applies to bear cubs and moose calves," Ellingwood said.
"So, if you're lucky enough to see a deer fawn, bear cub, moose calf or other wild animal, count your blessings and leave the area," Ellingwood advises. "Unless you can verify that an animal's mother is dead, please leave it alone. The majority of a doe's time, as an example, is spent away from the fawn. Persistent revisiting by sympathetic people only serves to prolong the separation and delay important feeding. If you have questions, call your local Fish and Game office."
Only qualified people with special rehabilitator's permits, issued through Fish and Game in Concord, may take in and care for injured or orphaned wildlife. Unless you have these credentials, it is illegal to have in your possession or take any New Hampshire wildlife from the wild and keep it in captivity. Click here for a list of licensed wildlife rehabilitators.
The New Hampshire Fish and Game Department is the guardian of the state's fish, wildlife and marine resources and their habitats.
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