- Division of Fisheries and Wildlife
Marion Larson, MassWildlife
The arrival of spring means the arrival of newborn and just-hatched wildlife. Every year, the lives of many young creatures are disturbed by people who take young wildlife from the wild in a well-intentioned attempt to “save” them. These well-meant acts of kindness tend to have the opposite effect. Please remember, finding a young animal alone does not mean it’s abandoned; the best thing you can do for young wildlife is to leave them alone.
Young wildlife removed from the wild are denied important natural learning experiences which help them survive on their own. Most people quickly find that they can’t care for young wildlife, and many animals soon die in the hands of well-meaning people. Young wildlife that survive human “assistance” miss experiences that teach them to fend for themselves. If these animals are released back into the wild, their chances of survival are reduced. Often, the care given to young wildlife results in some attachment to humans and the animals may return to places where people live, only to be attacked by domestic animals, or hit by cars. Some animals become nuisances and people have been injured by once-tamed wildlife.
Generally, young mammals are visited by their mother only a few times a day to avoid attracting predators to the young. For example, a nest of bunnies will only be visited by the adult female twice per day to nurse the young. The young are generally safe when left alone because their color patterns and lack of scent help them remain undetected. The same is true for fawns (young deer). Fawns are safest when left alone because their camouflaging color helps them remain undetected until the doe returns. If sympathetic people repeatedly visit a fawn, it can prolong the separation from the doe and delay needed feeding. Unlike deer, newborn moose calves remain in close proximity to their mothers who, in contrast to a white-tailed doe, will actively defend calves against danger. An adult cow moose weighing over 600 pounds will chase, kick or stomp potential predators, people included.
Only when young wildlife are found injured or with their dead mother may the young be assisted, but must then be delivered immediately to a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. Due to the difficulty in properly caring for them, there are no rehabilitators licensed to care for fawns. It is illegal to possess most wildlife in Massachusetts without a permit. A list of licensed wildlife rehabilitators can be found here.