With wildlife, if you care, leave it there

A young American robin stands on the deck of Editor Andy Flynn's home shortly after it fledged in June 2023. (News photo — Andy Flynn)

We’d like to echo the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s annual reminder to leave young wildlife undisturbed, even if they seem in distress.

Should you find a fawn or other young wildlife, please consider the saying, “If You Care, Leave It There.”

The DEC recently cautioned visitors to natural areas against interacting with newborn fawns and other young wildlife as the peak birthing season starts. Those who see a fawn or other newborn wildlife should enjoy their encounter but keep it brief, maintain some distance and not attempt to touch the animal.

“Spring’s warmer weather brings with it more sightings and encounters with New York wildlife, especially young birds and other animals,” Interim Commissioner Mahar said. “While some might think these baby animals need assistance, human interactions with wildlife typically do more harm than good. Please remember: If you care, leave it there.”

Many people assume that young wildlife found alone are helpless and need assistance; however, human interaction typically does more damage than good.

White-tailed deer fawns, for example, are born during late May and early June. They can walk shortly after birth, but they spend most of their first several days lying around. Fawns are usually left alone by their mothers during this period, except when nursing. So when people find a lone fawn, they mistakenly assume it has been abandoned.

“Fawns should be left alone,” the DEC urges. “Take a picture, but don’t take the fawn or attempt to feed it.”

The DEC explains that if human presence is detected by the doe, the doe may delay its next visit to nurse. A fawn nurses several times a day, usually for less than 30 minutes each time. Otherwise, the doe keeps her distance to reduce the chance a predator will follow her to the fawn.

Also, songbirds spend about two weeks in the nest being fed from dawn to dusk by their parents, and at about two weeks, they will make their first attempts at flying.

“Disturbing the nest close to this time can spook them to leave before they are ready,” the DEC states. “This puts them at greater risk. This is a difficult period for young birds, when they are vulnerable to predators, pets and well-meaning humans.”

According to the DEC, “Bird nestlings can have closed eyes and can be featherless, spending approximately two weeks in the nest until they begin to outgrow the space. Once they outgrow the nest, nestlings become fledglings, a bird with developed feathers, and begin to flap their wings and learn how to fly. In both stages (nestlings and fledglings) the adult birds are nearby and care for them.”

The DEC advises people to keep their pets indoors when young animals are present.

The DEC reminds the public that young wildlife are not pets, and keeping wildlife in captivity is both illegal and harmful to the animal.

Anyone encountering a young wild animal that is injured or orphaned should call a wildlife rehabilitator, who is a trained volunteer licensed by DEC. They are the only people legally allowed to receive and treat distressed wildlife. They have the experience, expertise and facilities to successfully treat and release wild animals.

For FAQs about young wildlife, visit DEC’s website: www.dec.ny.gov/animals/6956.html.

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