600 Capitol Way North, Olympia, WA 98501-1091

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July 02, 2008
Contact: Wildlife Program, (360) 902-2515

Leave young wildlife alone

OLYMPIA — With summer here and the Fourth of July weekend approaching, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WFDF) is reminding holiday campers and those enjoying the outdoors to leave any wildlife they encounter alone.

Deer fawns, seal pups, baby birds and other young animals are visible now and too often become the victims of well-intentioned people who may not realize the harm they can cause by removing animals from the wild, said Sandra Jonker, WDFW regional wildlife program manager.

“We’re receiving an increasing number of calls from people who assume they’ve encountered an abandoned animal, such as a deer fawn,” Jonker said. “They want to rescue it, but that’s just not a good idea.”

Jonker said many animals, such as deer, often leave their young to forage and avoid drawing in predators. The best thing people can do is to stay away from the animal and leave the area so adults can return to their young, she said.

"People have the best intentions, but removing animals from the wild reduces their chance of survival,” she said.

It also violates state law that prohibits taking wildlife out of the wild, she said. Under the law, only licensed wildlife rehabilitators can hold wildlife in captivity.

Injured or truly orphaned animals may be cared for and eventually be returned to the wild by licensed rehabilitators. Even then, Jonker noted, many don’t make it successfully back into the wild.

“The best way to help young wild animals is to leave them alone, give the animals a wide berth to avoid stressing them or their parents, and restrain pets that might harass them," she said. “Cats, in particular, left to roam outdoors, can impact ground-nesting and other song birds.”

Holding wildlife in captivity is a misdemeanor with a maximum fine of $1,000. For more information, see "Wildlife Viewing Ethics" on WDFW's website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/viewing/ethics.htm.