Leaving Wildlife Alone Is The Best Practice

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It is the time of year when people are outdoors enjoying warmer weather, beautiful flowers and emerging wildlife. As you spend time outdoors, you may start to notice more wildlife in your backyard, neighborhood or surrounding areas. Species including birds, deer and snakes are active this time of year and their young can be mistaken as abandoned.

According to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) baby birds and deer fawns are the most common animals picked up by well-meaning citizens. However, it is important to realize that many such human-animal encounters are unnecessary and can even be detrimental to the wildlife concerned, not to mention the fact that it is illegal to possess wildlife without a permit.

“TPWD cautions against lending a helping hand, as even the best intentions can cause more harm than good,” said Meredith Longoria, TPWD’s Wildlife Division Deputy Director. “Most of the time, young wildlife is not abandoned but simply staying in a safe space while their parents search for food. It’s best to leave rehabilitation of wildlife to those with the proper equipment, training and permits that authorize them to do so.”

Deer fawning season begins in early to mid-May and a fawn’s mottled coat and mother’s care usually hide them from predators. As fawns mature, they shed these coats for a more adult color, which causes them to catch the eye of onlookers. A doe may leave her fawn for hours at a time while she is browsing for food. During that time, people may spot a fawn lying alone in tall grass or in a brushy area. Many people interfere with the fawn thinking it has been abandoned by its mother and needs help, but this is rarely the case.

Just as it is for adult children moving out of the house, baby birds must leave the nest to learn the skills needed to thrive on their own.

Doves, blue jays, mockingbirds and many other birds that are just preparing to leave the nest are often found on the ground and mistakenly thought to be abandoned. Part of their developmental phase in learning to fly is spending days and sometimes weeks on the ground under the supervision of their parents nearby, who continue to feed them throughout that phase. If the bird’s eyes are open, it has feathers and is hopping around, mom and dad are likely nearby. For more information about what to do if you encounter baby birds look at the Audubon Society’s FAQ’s about injured, sick or orphaned birds and wildlife.

Leave all young animals alone unless they are obviously injured. To be sure, spend time observing the wild animal from a distance to make a solid determination. Staying too close may deter the mother from returning and interfering too soon may do more harm than good.

Various turtle species are also often picked up by well-meaning citizens and given assistance crossing the road. While this is perfectly harmless if done safely, biologists ask that the public not take these animals home with the intention of gaining a new pet. These turtles are wild animals and must remain wild to stay healthy.

If a wild animal is sick or injured, TPWD encourages citizens to contact a permitted wildlife rehabilitator. Please note that TPWD staff advise the public not to handle or attempt to transport injured, sick or orphaned wildlife. Learn more about what to do upon encountering orphaned or injured wildlife, and how to contact rehabilitators on the TPWD Wildlife Division website.

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