DNR reminds residents not to handle, take home baby animals

By EMILY GROVE
Pioneer News Network

MANISTEE COUNTY — While they may be cute, young wildlife is not meant to be cuddled and taken home.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources reminds those who are outside, enjoying the experience of seeing wildlife raise its young, to view animals from a distance so they are not disturbed.

Many species of wildlife hide their young for safety and these babies are not abandoned.

“Locally, fawns, skunks and raccoons are common species people want to adopt and try to help because they are cute when they are young,” said Pete Kailing, DNR wildlife biologist. “But the mother is usually in the area, especially with white-tailed deer.”

A white-tailed deer fawn waits for its mother to return. It is not uncommon for deer to leave their fawns unattended for up to eight hours at a time, according to Michigan Department of Natural Resources.  (Courtesy photo)

A white-tailed deer fawn waits for its mother to return. It is not uncommon for deer to leave their fawns unattended for up to eight hours at a time, according to Michigan Department of Natural Resources. (Courtesy photo)

Fawns are one of the animals most commonly picked up by well-intentioned citizens.

It is not uncommon for deer to leave their fawns unattended for up to eight hours at a time, according to the DNR.

This behavior minimizes the scent of the mother left around the fawn and allows the fawn to go undetected by nearby predators.

If a fawn is found alone, people should not touch it, as this might leave a human scent and could attract predators. Give it plenty of space and quickly leave the area. The mother deer will return for her fawns when she feels it is safe; she may not return if people or dogs are present.

“The mother deer leaves to feed and rest and will come back to nurse the fawn,” Kailing said. “Even if you don’t see an adult deer, there is a high probability she is in the area.”

Animals that have been picked up by people and become habituated are often unable to revert back to life in the wild as they become dependent on humans, Kailing said.

“The long-term outcome is not good,” he explained. “Once they rely on people, it’s unlikely they can be successfully released. Every year I get complaints about a deer that has a collar or tag on it and the neighbors are wondering what’s going on.

“People may have good intentions, but it’s not good for the animal. With no place for them to go, we end up euthanizing the deer.”

Along with being bad for the animals, it’s not always safe for humans to handle wildlife, Kailing added.

“The animal could be sick or carrying a disease, which is why it was approachable,” he said. “You don’t want to be taking any illness back to your pets or risk being bitten by a rabid skunk or raccoon and end up with a serious medical issue.”

Additionally, only licensed wildlife rehabilitators may possess abandoned or injured wildlife. Without a license, it is illegal to possess a live wild animal, including deer, in Michigan.

The only time a baby animal may be removed from the wild is if it’s known the parent is dead or the animal is injured. A licensed rehabilitator must be contacted before removing an animal from the wild. Licensed rehabilitators will work to return the animal to the wild where it will have the best chance for survival.

A list of licensed rehabilitators can be found by visiting mi.gov/wildlife or by calling a local DNR office.

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