New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos is reminding New Yorkers to appreciate wildlife from a distance and resist the urge to pick up newborn fawns and other young wildlife.
“When young wildlife venture into the world, they may have a brief inability to walk or fly on their own, making some people believe they might need help,” Commissioner Seggos said. “However, young wildlife belongs in the wild and in nearly all cases, interaction with people does more harm than good to the animals.”
If You Care, Leave it There
When people encounter young wildlife, they are likely not lost or abandoned, but purposely left there by their parents to keep them hidden from predators while the adult animal is nearby collecting food for the newborn.
White-tailed deer fawns are a good example of how human interaction with young wildlife can be problematic. Fawns are born during late May and early June, and although they can walk shortly after birth, they spend most of their first several days lying still in tall grass, leaf litter, or sometimes relatively unconcealed. During this period, a fawn is usually left alone by the adult female (doe), except when nursing.
Human Interactions Do More Harm than Good to Wild Animals
People occasionally find a lone fawn and mistakenly assume it has been abandoned, which is rare. A fawn’s best chance to survive is to be raised by the adult doe. If human presence is detected by the doe, the doe may delay its next visit to nurse.
Fawns should never be picked up. A fawn’s protective coloration and ability to remain motionless help it to avoid detection by predators and people. By the end of a fawn’s second week of life, it begins to move about, spend more time with the doe, and eat on its own. At about 10 weeks of age, fawns are no longer dependent on milk, although they continue to nurse occasionally into the fall.
The more serious cases of animals being abandoned are due to injury. Anyone that encounters a young wild animal that is obviously injured or orphaned may wish to call a wildlife rehabilitator. Wildlife rehabilitators are trained volunteers licensed by DEC. They are the only people legally allowed to receive and treat distressed wildlife because they have the experience, expertise, and facilities to successfully treat and release wild animals once rehabilitated.
Additionally, DEC reminds the public that young wildlife are not pets. Keeping wildlife in captivity is illegal and harmful to the animal. Wild animals are not well-suited to life in captivity and may carry diseases that can be harmful to humans. DEC also advises New Yorkers to keep pets indoors when young wild animals are present. Many fledgling birds cannot fly when they first leave the nest and are easy prey for a domestic cat.
Anyone who observes wildlife that appears to be sick or behaving abnormally should contact their DEC regional wildlife office.
For more information and answers to frequently asked questions about young wildlife, visit DEC’s website.
Photo at top: A resting fawn. DEC photo.