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Don't Take Baby Animals Out of the Wild, Says DNR

The public encouraged to enjoy springtime baby animal sightings, but remember to leave wildlife in the wild. Plus, a list of wildlife rehabilitators in Washtenaw County.

With the arrival of spring, wild animals are giving birth and hatching the next generation.

Baby red foxes appeared in dens during the last days of March and the first days of April, and the first litters of cottontails will soon appear.

As springtime brings an increase in sightings of nestlings and baby animals, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources encourages residents to enjoy the sightings but remember to remain at a distance.

"These are magical moments to witness but, unfortunately, sometimes the story has a different ending when people take baby wild animals out of the wild," DNR wildlife biologist Erin Victory said in a press release. "Please resist the urge to try to help seemingly abandoned fawns or other baby animals this spring. Some people truly are trying to be helpful, while others think wild animals would make good pets, but in most cases neither of those situations ends well for the wildlife.”

"We appreciate the good intentions of those who want to help, but the animals are better off left alone than removed from the wild," Victory added.

Victory said the species that are most problematic are white-tailed deer and raccoons.

“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," she said.

It is not uncommon for deer to leave their fawns unattended for up to eight hours at a time. While fawns may seem abandoned, they almost certainly are not. All wild white-tailed deer begin life this way.

Most mammals have a keen sense of smell, and if humans touch them, their parents will abandon them. Other wildlife, such as birds, should not be handled either.

Adult birds will continue to care for hatchlings that have fallen from their nest, and although most birds do not have a strong sense of smell, if people move them, the adults may not be able to locate and care for them.

Remember:

  • 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, and raccoons are well-known for this, too.

Washtenaw County wildlife rehabilitators

  • Dexter:
    • Friends of Wildlife, 734-913-9843
    • Help4Wildlife, 734-645-3552
  • Chelsea: Amanda Nimke, 734-368-0880
  • Ann Arbor:
    • Kimberly Poisson, 734-368-6608
    • Carol Akerlof, 734-761-9640

For a full list of licensed rehabilitators visit http://www.michigandnr.com/dlr.

Information provided by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Humor April 11, 2013 at 03:09 PM
Great advice and thanks for the contact phone listings. A couple of years ago we had to dig to find those numbers. Mama deer left a fawn in our side yard. We were glad to find out after calling that we were just babysitting.
Rebecca Jaskot (Editor) April 11, 2013 at 04:52 PM
Seems a little mean to leave the fawn all alone, doesn't it? Glad the one in your yard was OK!

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