Most wild babies should be left alone

The annual springtime wave of hatchling birds and fuzzy baby mammals has begun.

Seeing these new babies in the wild can be a special treat — but it should happen from a distance and not involve handling these young creatures, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources advised.

Every year, well-meaning but misguided people needlessly remove baby animals from the wild, thinking they have been abandoned or orphaned.

“Each spring and summer, we are flooded with calls as people across the state run into a common dilemma — they have come across a baby animal and desperately want to help,” according to the DNR. “The best thing you can do to help, however, is to leave the animal alone.

“The majority of the time these wild animals do not need our help and it is best for wildlife to remain in the wild.”

Many species of wildlife hide their young for safety, with the mother returning only sporadically to avoid drawing the attention of predators to the site, wildlife experts say.

Deer fawns found bedded down and motionless often are mistaken for being abandoned. But it is not uncommon for does to leave fawns unattended for up to eight hours, according to the DNR. This behavior minimizes the scent of the mother left around the fawn, which when born has almost no scent, so the fawn can go undetected.

The doe will return when she feels it is safe but may not if people or dogs are present. So give any fawn discovered plenty of space and quickly leave the area.

Taken from their mothers, many of these young animals face bleak prospects because of the amount of care and special diets or formulas they require. Some also can carry diseases or parasites that can be passed on to humans or pets, the DNR added.

And even when successfully raised by people, the animal may be too habituated to humans to ever return to the wild.

The only time to possibly step in is when the parent is dead or the animal injured, according to the DNR. Even then, only a licensed rehabilitator may possess abandoned or injured wildlife in Michigan.

So do that baby — and yourself — a favor and leave it be.

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

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