The spring season has arrived, offering many opportunities for Ohioans to help protect young wildlife. Each year, Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) officials offer this simple advice: enjoy wildlife from a distance, and leave young animals alone. Wild animals are born to live their lives in the wild, and sometimes good intentions can hurt their chances of survival.
A young wild animal’s best chance for survival is with its mother. Most wildlife taken in by people do not survive, except when handled by specially-trained personnel. In many cases, a young animal collected by a person was not lost or abandoned, but was simply waiting for a parent to return.
Many adult wild animals will leave their young alone while they forage for food or to divert the attention of predators away from their vulnerable young, especially during daylight hours. In the case of white-tailed deer, a doe will hide her young from predators by leaving it alone in a secluded spot, such as a grassy meadow or a flower bed. A hidden fawn has virtually no scent, and when the fawn is left alone, it is difficult for predators to find.
The doe is usually nearby and will tend to the fawn during the night.
Baby birds that have fallen from their nests are one of the most common wildlife species that are removed from the wild by humans. Contrary to popular belief, human scent will not prevent the parents from returning to care for their young. Individuals should return baby birds back to their nests and walk away so the parents can continue to feed the birds without fear of humans.
If individuals find a young animal that is visibly injured or clearly in severe distress and may need assistance, visit wildohio.gov/staywild before taking any action. Specific information for commonly encountered wildlife species is available to help guide people on how to best help the animal.
State and federal laws protect and regulate wildlife in Ohio, and only specially trained and licensed wildlife rehabilitators, with special permits issued by the ODNR Division of Wildlife, may possess and care for native wild animals. These laws are in place for the benefit of humans as well as wild animals.
To further protect young and vulnerable wild animals, keep pets under control so they do not raid nests or injure wild animals. Also, remember to keep pets inoculated against parasites and diseases before venturing out this spring.
Always check for nests before cutting down trees or clearing brush. It is best to cut trees and clear brush in the autumn when nesting season is over. Teach children to respect wildlife and their habitat, observing wildlife from a distance.
Contact a local wildlife official before taking action. Call 800-WILDLIFE (800-945-3543) or visit wildohio.gov/staywild to connect with the proper individuals and to read about species-specific guidance. Human intervention is always a wild animal’s last hope for survival, never its best hope.