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Best to keep away from those new wildlife babies

The annual springtime wave of downy hatchling birds and fuzzy baby mammals is close at hand. Already, the first mallard hens have been seen in the Iron Mountain area leading strings of tiny ducklings to water. Several mammals likely already have young in nest or burrow. Does should begin dropping fawns within the next few weeks.

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, vulnerable, in trouble … or, worse, a potentially neat pet.

“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.”

Many species of wildlife hide their young for safety, with the mother returning only sporadically to avoid drawing attention 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 around the fawn, which when born has almost no scent, so can help the fawn go undetected by predators.

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 obviously is dead or the animal injured, according to the DNR. Even then, only a licensed rehabilitator may possess wildlife in Michigan and Wisconsin.

Keep in mind, too, that both of the local people authorized to do such work retired earlier this year. The closest licensed rehabilitators now may be in the northwest end of the U.P. And both Michigan and Wisconsin frown on taking animals over state lines, even for wildlife rehabilitation.

So consider all these factors before making the decision to take an animal out of the wild. You — and the baby — likely will be better off if you step back. Let nature take its course, hard as that may seem.

If an animal truly is in distress, a list of licensed rehabilitators in Michigan can be found at the web site mi.gov/wildlife or by calling a local DNR office.

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