Late spring and early summer is the peak time for California’s wildlife to have their young, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is issuing a reminder to well-intentioned people to not interact with young wildlife – even if they find an animal that appears to be abandoned.
It may be hard to resist scooping up a young wild animal that looks vulnerable and alone but human intervention may cause more harm than good. Young animals removed from their natural environment typically do not survive or may not develop the appropriate survival skills needed to be released back into the wild.
“It is a common mistake to believe a young animal has been abandoned when it is found alone, even if the mother has not been observed in the area for a long period of time,” said Nicole Carion, CDFW’s statewide wildlife rehabilitation coordinator. “Chances are the mother is off foraging, or is nearby, waiting for you to leave.”
Adult female deer often stash their fawns in tall grass or brush for many hours while they are out foraging for food. A female mountain lion may spend as much as 50 percent of her time away from her kittens.
After leaving the nest, fledgling birds spend significant time on the ground while learning to fly with their parents somewhere nearby.
If a young animal is in distress, or you are unsure, contact a wildlife rehabilitation facility and speak to personnel to determine the best course of action.
For an injured, orphaned or sick bear, elk, deer, bighorn sheep, pronghorn antelope, wild pig or mountain lion, contact CDFW directly, as most wildlife rehabilitators are only allowed to possess small mammals and birds. Although some wildlife rehabilitators are allowed to accept fawns, injured or sick adult deer should be reported directly to CDFW for public safety reasons.
Anyone who removes a young animal from the wild is required to notify CDFW or take the animal to a state and federally permitted wildlife rehabilitator within 48 hours. These animals may need specialized care and feeding that is best done by trained wildlife care specialists.
It is important to note that wild animals – even young ones – can cause serious injury with their sharp claws, hooves and teeth, especially when injured and scared. They may also carry ticks, fleas and lice, and can transmit diseases to humans, including rabies and tularemia.
To learn more about how to live and recreate responsibly where wildlife is near, please visit CDFW’s Keep Me Wild website at www.keepmewild.org.