As spring brings the season for wildlife to give birth, the Department of Natural Resources and Environment reminds Michigan residents to resist the instinct to try to help seemingly abandoned fawns or other baby animals.
“The truth is, the animal doesn’t need help. Even if a fawn appears to be abandoned, its mother is almost always nearby,” said DNRE wildlife biologist Brent Rudolph. “We appreciate the good intentions of those who want to help, but the animals are better off left alone than removed from the wild.”
Rudolph said it’s not uncommon for does to leave their young unattended for up to eight hours at a time, an anti-predator mechanism that minimizes scent left around the newborn animals. “The same holds true for rabbits, ground-dwelling birds and other wildlife,” he said. “Even avian parents will continue to care for hatchlings that have fallen from a nest.”
The DNRE advises that:
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. It is illegal to possess a wild deer in Michigan, and every day a deer spends with humans makes it that much less likely to be able to survive 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.
“If you know of a deer or other animal that has been orphaned, early in the year, for example, if a doe is dead nearby, please call your local DNRE office, which can refer you to a licensed rehabilitator,” said Rudolph. “Licensed rehabilitators are trained to handle wild animals and know how to release them so that they can survive in the wild.”