Find 'orphaned' wildlife? Let it be, ODFW says

Chances are, its parents aren't far away

SALEM, Ore. - During spring and early summer, Oregon's wildlife are giving birth and raising their young, teaching them what to eat, where to take shelter and how to survive in the wild.

During this period, mothers will leave their young alone, often for extended periods of time. The mothers do this so they can feed while not drawing attention to their newborns.

Unfortunately, every year, well-meaning people pick up these young animals, believing them to be orphaned, and take them home in an attempt to care for them.

If calls to local ODFW offices are any indication, this spring will not be an exception.

In Charleston on the south coast, ODFW district biologist Stuart Love received this call from a well-meaning man who picked up a deer fawn he believed had been abandoned by its mother.

Love counseled the man to immediately take the fawn back to where he picked it up. The man did, that same morning -- and the doe returned in the night to move its fawn to a more appropriate place.

"The moral of the story is that does hide fawns and go off to feed. They do so in secret and we humans are often not aware of the situation until we find the fawn," explained Love. "The best thing to do is to leave the fawns where you find them, so mom can come back when she feels it is safe to do so."

And you could be in trouble for that well-meaning act, too.

Removing wildlife from the wild and keeping wildlife in captivity without a permit is a Class A misdemeanor. Holding marine mammals or migratory birds, or disturbing the nests, eggs, and young of migratory birds, are violations of federal laws.

What you should do to help young wildlife

  • Never assume an animal is orphaned and remove it from the woods, forest or even your backyard. Leave it alone and leave the area. Call your local ODFW office or OSP before you approach any young wildlife.
  • Keep your dog or cat away from young wildlife. "Fawns are fragile and often don't survive the stress of a dog chase. Obey leash laws at parks to protect young wildlife," notes Tonya Moore, ODFW assistant district wildlife biologist in Clackamas.
  • If you see an animal that is clearly is in distress, is being disturbed by people or pets, is lying near or on a road, or that you know is orphaned because you saw its parent die, call your local ODFW office, Oregon State Police office, or a local wildlife rehabilitation center that is approved by ODFW.
  • If you see a seal pup, young sea lion, or other marine mammal in distress, contact OSP's hotline at 1-800-452-7888.

For information on young w wildlife, visit the Living with Wildlife section of ODFW's website.

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