Born Wild, Stay Wild
In the spring and early summer, when wildlife reproduction is at its peak, you may have the good fortune of observing baby animals in the wild. Often, the babies you see will be unattended by a parent. Unless something seems amiss, keep your distance and leave them alone. Human intervention is always a wild animal’s LAST hope for survival, NEVER its best hope.
Are Orphaned Animals Really An Orphan?
Wildlife parents are very devoted to their young and rarely abandon them. Many species are raised by only one parent (the mother), and she cannot be in two places at once. This means that baby wildlife must be left alone several times during the day or even the majority of the time while the mother ventures off to find food for herself and her young.
The best thing to do is to keep your distance, and keep children and pets away from the young animal. This is to protect both humans and wildlife. Wild animals can carry parasites or diseases that can be harmful to humans and pets. Wild animals also defend themselves by scratching or biting.
What do I do if an animal is truly abandoned or injured?
If you see open wounds or other injuries, or you know in fact that a young wild animal has lost its parent, consult your nearest Wildlife District Office or local wildlife rehabilitator. Do not attempt to capture or feed wildlife until proper, expert guidance is provided to you. Also, limit contact with the animal to reduce stress and the possibility of it becoming habituated. Taming a young animal will make it unreleasable in the wild. It is illegal to keep wildlife without a rehabilitators permit. Rehabilitators go through extensive training on how to raise and treat young and injured wildlife. Leave it to the professionals and you’ll greatly increase the animal’s chance of survival.
Why should we keep wildlife wild?
- A baby wild animal’s best chance for survival is with its mother.
- Wild animals are born to live their lives in the wild, not in a house or a cage.
- The best option for a wild animal is to learn normal behaviors from their own species in their natural environment. An animal that has become habituated to humans cannot be returned to the wild.
- Once they grow, wild animals are active and independent, which can make them dangerous and destructive.
- Wild animals can be highly stressed by sights, sounds, and smells from people and pets, especially when in close proximity. Stress can cause health problems and even death.
- Wild animals can carry diseases and parasites, some of which are transmissible to people or pets. Some diseases, like rabies, can cause serious health problems.
- Wild animals have complex nutritional needs not easily met in captivity. Nutritional deficiencies can leave an animal deformed for life.
- Feeding wildlife (such as ducks, geese, raccoons, etc.) can cause them to lose their fear of people, and even expect food from humans and become aggressive. Adult wildlife also teach their behavior to their offspring, and young animals may not develop the basic skills to find sustenance on their own.
- Feeding wildlife can also unnaturally gather them to one location, which then causes diseases and parasites to spread more quickly, as well as concentrates waste material.
In most states, It is illegal to possess, own, control, restrain, or keep any wild animal. The purpose of the law is to protect wild animal populations and to protect people from disease and injury. Check with your state Game & Fish.
What can I do to prevent wildlife orphans?
1. Check for nests before cutting down trees or clearing brush. Autumn and winter is the best time for such outdoor maintenance to avoid the breeding season.
2. Cap chimneys, vents, and window wells to prevent animals from nesting there or getting trapped. See the Nuisance Wildlife page for more information.
3. Keep pets under control so wildlife is not unnecessarily injured.
4. Educate friends and family members about the importance of respecting wild animals. They are not pets and will not behave as pets even if tamed.
Provided by: Ohio Department of Natural Resources