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May 15, 2007
Contact: Wildlife Program, (360) 902-2515

Leave young wildlife alone

OLYMPIA – Newborn wildlife found in the wild should be left alone, for the health and safety of both the animal and the people who find them.

That’s the word from Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) staff who field calls regularly at this time of year across the state about young “abandoned” animals that need “rescuing.”

Deer fawns, seal pups, baby birds and other young wildlife are visible now and too often become the victims of well-intentioned but uninformed people. Deer fawns are most commonly discovered alone, assumed orphaned or abandoned, and picked up.

“Deer often leave their fawns for hours at a time to avoid drawing predators by their own adult body scent,” said Dave Brittell, assistant director of the WDFW wildlife program. "They’re usually nearby and may even helplessly watch their fawns be removed from the area.”

Brittell said that most people have no idea how to care for a wild animal with “fight or flight” instincts.

"Even with the best intentions, people who remove animals from the wild reduce their chance of survival and put human handlers at risk,” he said. “It also violates state law that prohibits taking wildlife out of the wild and allows only licensed wildlife rehabilitators to hold wildlife in captivity.”

Injured or truly orphaned wild animals are cared for and may eventually be returned to the wild by skilled rehabilitators. Even then, Brittell noted, some 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," he said. “Cats, in particular, left to roam outdoors, are really hard on ground-nesting and other birds.”

Holding wildlife in captivity is a misdemeanor with a standard bail of $540. For more information, see "Wildlife Viewing Ethics" on WDFW's website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/viewing/ethics.htm.