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Around Our Town...Outdoors

Baby Wildlife

07/01/2005 - Summer is finally here, and with it comes many new wildlife babies. With Wyoming getting ready to welcome 300,000 or more deer and antelope fawns, as well as many other young wildlife species, the Game and Fish Department is urging citizens to stay away from what might appear to be orphaned or abandoned baby wildlife.

"Most of the time they are not abandoned," said Scott Edberg, Wildlife Supervisor for the Casper Region. "The mother has put them there while she is out eating. Just let them be. They're probably going to be OK."

Just like a domestic cow leaves its calf unattended for a short time, so will deer and antelope, and females have been known to run off to lure danger away from their young.

Even removing a baby animal for a short amount of time can have tragic results.

"People should never bring a fawn or other baby animal home or to work with the idea of showing it around a little before releasing it again, because removal helps break the parental bond and dramatically reduces the chance of survival," said Jay Lawson, chief game warden for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.

Human handling also violates the young fawn's scent or lack thereof. Nature renders fawns nearly scentless for protection from predators. Humans are urged to not even walk up to young fawn, because coyotes have been documented to follow human scent trails.

Most baby birds that have fallen out of a nest should also be left alone because the parents will often feed the baby on the ground. However, Edberg said if a person does attempt to return a baby bird to a nest, they should wear a glove when touching it.

Other small mammals, such as squirrels and rabbits, should also be left alone when found. While there are a few places in the state that rehabilitate small mammals, facilities are limited.

However, Edberg said there isn't much the Game and Fish Department can do if a young fawn truly is abandoned. "It really has no chance of surviving in the wild or in captivity," he said. "We don't have the ability to provide the proper nutrients it needs. It's a sad deal, and it sounds cruel, but sometimes you just have to let nature take its course."

He said there are no places in Wyoming to take big game fawns. "So if you pick them up, it's practically a death sentence for them," he said.

And it's also against the law.

"It's illegal in Wyoming to pick them up," Edberg said. "The state does not allow private ownership of big game animals, and if you do pick them up you could be charged with a criminal offense."

Many wild animals also carry diseases, such as rabies or tularemia, or disease-harboring insects such as fleas that carry plague, which could make a well-meaning citizen very ill.

Edberg said he knows most people are only acting out of the kindness of their hearts when they pick up baby wildlife, but he said the best thing to do is take note of the animal's location and contact the nearest Game and Fish office or a game warden. "Tell us where it is and we'll check it out," he said. "But otherwise leave it alone. Nature has its own way of dealing with these problems. One reason some species have a lot of offspring is to compensate for these kinds of losses."

Warren Mischke contributed to this article.

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