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May 20, 1998
Contact: Madonna Luers, (509) 456-4073

"Baby snatchers" concern Wildlife officials

"The Invasion of the Wild Baby Snatchers" sounds like the title of a monster movie.

But "baby snatchers" concern the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) because they're not just in the movies. They're real, illegal and potentially dangerous to both man and beast. The "baby snatchers" who concern WDFW are the well-meaning people who pick up wild baby animals.

On Memorial Day weekend -- the start of the outdoor recreation season and birthing time for many wild animals -- people "invade" the woods and beaches and often discover newborn wildlife.

Every year at this time some people can't resist the urge to pick up newborn animals that appear to be orphaned or helpless. The "snatched" wild babies include seal pups on the beach, ducklings on the water, and bear cubs, raccoon kits, coyote pups and deer fawns in the woods. In many cases, the parent animals even witness the abductions of their young.

Held in captivity by people who don't know how to properly care for them, the young animals usually become sick or instinctively aggressive. In past years, WDFW staff have been swamped with calls from people who have picked up these unsuitable wild "pets" and cannot care for them. Most animals removed from the wild don't survive.

Taking wild babies out of the wild or holding wild animals in captivity is not only unsafe for animals and people, it's against Washington state law. The minimum fine for holding any wildlife in captivity is $152.

WDFW officials remind outdoor recreationists to enjoy all wildlife from a distance.