Born Wild: Babies Best Left in Nature | Environment
Written by the Wisconsin DNR
With the arrival of spring so, too, will be the arrival of baby wildlife. Well-intentioned animal enthusiasts may mistakenly assume some wildlife babies are abandoned and in need of their help without realizing the babies’ mothers most likely are nearby and on the job.
Department of Natural Resources wildlife biologists remind outdoor enthusiasts that these wildlife babies are best left in their natural homes and near their mothers, which are likely hiding from sight in an effort to protect their babies.
"Wildlife animal mothers protect, conceal and feed their babies in ways that may be easily misinterpreted by humans who want to help the animal baby that appears vulnerable," said Amanda Cyr , a DNR wildlife biologist. "Unlike humans one way they protect their babies is to conceal them and leave them hidden from predators under natural vegetation."
Cyr says the mother returns to feed the babies, but often under the cover of darkness or brush. This is something humans may not understand because it is so removed from what a human mother does. The well-intended but uninformed person may attempt to rescue or feed a wild animal baby because, in the human world, we perceive the baby as being afraid, alone and abandoned.
"It often is not. Its mother is following natural behavior instincts to help the babies survive and thrive," Cyr said. "Human interventions, while done with good intentions, instead can damage the health and well-being of the baby animal."
Cyr says feeding a wild animal with human foods can cause more damage to the wild animal because their digestive systems are different. Wild animals require different foods and nutrient levels that cannot be met with human diets. Too much human or domestic animal disturbance or activity near a baby animal could also cause the mother to shy away from the area. Especially keep a close watch on pets when they are outdoors so they don’t disturb a nest of baby animals.
To help prevent a wild animal from making a nest in a building or too close to human activity, place caps on chimneys, vents and window wells, and seal up any unintended openings or hollows.
Born without body scents for a reason; fawn’s spots for survival
Some wild animals are born with little body scent. Their protection from predators, Cyr says, is for them to remain motionless and concealed within the environment.
"Their mothers are keeping watch from afar," Cyr said. "The mother returns a couple of times each day to quickly feed the babies. After feeding, the mother will quickly hide them again from the predators."
Cyr says this is the natural behavior of white-tailed deer and fawns.
"Fawns have little scent to attract a predator and their spots help them blend in to the environment," she says. "They move very little in their first weeks while they are alone in a place the mother selected. If you see a fawn lying on the ground by itself, you should leave the fawn where it is and not disrupt the area."
Baby rabbits also are usually alone in their nest during the day when the mother is not there. The baby rabbit’s best protection from predators is to remain in their nest which is concealed with grass or vegetation.
"The mother will come back to the nest a couple times each day to feed the babies," Cyr said.
Don’t touch but call for help; drive with care during animal rush hours
If you find a baby wild animal, Cyr says the best policy is to leave them alone. "A good option to really help the animal is to call the DNR Call Center (1-888-936-7463, 1-888-WDNRINFo). We can evaluate the situation and determine if you should be connected with a wildlife rehabilitator in your area."
To get the name of a wildlife rehabilitator in your area, you can contact the WDNR’s Call Center (1-888-WDNRINFo / 936-7463) or Bureau of Wildlife Management (608-266-8204), or search for "wildlife rehabilitator directory" on the DNR website.
"Animals tend to be on the move during specific times during the day and the hours around dusk and dawn are especially busy," Cyr said. When driving in more rural or woods areas slow down and watch for animals on the move. Just like humans, animals start getting more active when the weather makes a transition into the warmer temperatures.
What is the law on assisting wildlife?
State and federal laws prohibit the possession of live native wild animals without a license or permit from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. A permit from the USFWS is required to possess all native birds protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. A few species are allowed to be possessed without a license, but the take of these species must be from a legal source.
If it is absolutely necessary to help a young animal that is injured or its mother has been killed, a person may legally have the animal in their possession for up to 24 hours for the purpose of transporting the animal to a licensed wildlife rehabilitator.
People can learn more about assisting wildlife by searching the DNR website for "orphaned wildlife."