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March 17, 2006
Leave That Wild Animal Alone, Experts Advise
AUSTIN, Texas — With spring come young, wild animals venturing from their nests and hiding places under the watchful eyes of their parents. Young animals often stray and appear to be abandoned; that’s when humans need to resist the urge to help, wildlife experts say.
Some species, including birds, deer and snakes, are very active this time of year and are being seen more frequently.
This is the time of year that young birds are out of their nests but cannot fly. If the bird’s eyes are open, it has a coat of feathers and is hopping around, it is probably fine, according to staff at Texas Parks and Wildlife’s wildlife information center. Grounded fledglings will usually be up and flying within a few days.
“Many people discover apparently lost or abandoned wildlife young and take them in, thinking they are doing the right thing, and this sometimes does more harm than good,” said Mark Klym of the Wildlife Diversity branch at TPWD. “People should leave young animals alone unless they are obviously injured or orphaned. It is best to observe a wild creature from a distance for a while in order to make that determination.”
Staying too close to the baby may keep mamma from returning, Klym said.
The fawning season begins in early to mid-May, although the newborns may not be visible to the casual observer for several weeks because of excellent camouflage of their mottled coats and their mother’s care in hiding them from predators.
Deer will typically leave their fawn(s) for hours at a time, returning only to nurse them. Fawns are often discovered lying quietly in tall grass or brushy areas. Well-meaning people sometimes pick up these fawns, thinking that they have been abandoned by their mothers and need help. This is rarely the case.
A fawn should only be picked up if it is covered in fire ants or is otherwise seriously injured. These fawns need assistance and should be taken to a wildlife rehabilitator immediately.
If it is determined that a wild animal is sick or injured call the TPWD wildlife information line, (512) 389-4505, during business hours for a referral to a licensed wildlife rehabilitator.
After-hours callers can get the names of rehabilitators from TPWD’s dispatch line at (512) 389-4848 or by accessing the department’s web site.
During the spring, the department receives more than 100 calls a week about baby wildlife.
“Some of the most common questions are whether the fawns are actually abandoned and if baby birds can take care of themselves on the ground,” Klym said. “In most cases, the fawns’ mothers are just out of sight and the baby birds are still being protected and fed by the parents.”
“The overall message is that wildlife should be left alone,” said Klym. “Wild animals are best left in the wild.”
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