Leave wildlife in wild

DNR urges residents to resist urge to help seemingly abandoned baby animals

A fawn waits for its mother to return. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources urges people to resist the urge to help seemingly abandoned baby animals. (Photo courtesy of the DNR)

MARQUETTE — Spring is here, bringing warmer temperatures and the next generation of wildlife. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources reminds those who are outside, enjoying the experience of seeing wildlife raise its young, to view animals from a distance so they are not disturbed.

It’s important to remember that many species of wildlife hide their young for safety and that these babies are not abandoned. They simply have been hidden by their mother until she returns for them.

“Please resist the urge to help seemingly abandoned baby animals,” said Hannah Schauer, wildlife communications coordinator for the DNR. “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.”

Schauer added that some animals that have been picked up by people and do survive may become habituated and may be unable to revert back to life in the wild.

“Habituated animals pose additional problems as they mature and develop adult animal behavior,” Schauer said. “For example, habituated deer, especially bucks, can become aggressive as they get older and reach breeding age.”

White-tailed deer fawns are one of the animals most commonly picked up by well-intentioned citizens.

Schauer explained that 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 by nearby predators.

While fawns may seem abandoned, they rarely are. All wild white-tailed deer begin life this way. The best chance for their survival is to leave them in the wild. If you find a fawn alone, do not touch it, as this might leave your scent and could attract predators. Give it plenty of space and quickly leave the area.

The mother deer will return for her fawns when she feels it is safe; she may not return if people or dogs are present.

Only licensed wildlife rehabilitators may possess abandoned or injured wildlife. Unless you are licensed, it is illegal to possess a live wild animal, including deer, in Michigan.

The only time a baby animal may be removed from the wild is when you know the parent is dead or the animal is injured. Also, a licensed rehabilitator must be contacted before removing an animal from the wild. Licensed wildlife rehabilitators must adhere to the laws and have gone through training on proper handling of injured or abandoned wild animals. Licensed rehabilitators will work to return the animal to the wild where it will have the best chance for survival.

A list of licensed rehabilitators can be found by visiting mi.gov/wildlife or by calling a local DNR office.