During this season of rebirth and renewal, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) reminds people to leave young wildlife alone if they see them in the outdoors.
The improper handling of young wildlife is a problem in California and across the nation, especially in spring.
“Many people don’t realize that it is illegal to keep California native wildlife as pets,” said Nicole Carion, CDFW’s statewide coordinator for wildlife rehabilitation. “Never assume when see young wildlife alone that they need assistance. Possibly, their mother is simply out foraging for food. If you care, leave them there.”
Healthy fawns may lay or stand quietly by themselves in one location for hours while their mother is away feeding. Once a fawn is removed from its mother, it can lose the ability to survive in the wild. The same danger applies to most animals, including bears, coyotes, raccoons and most birds.
On average the state’s rehabilitation facilities receive an average of around 400-500 fawns per year from well-meaning members of the public. Many of these fawns were healthy and should not have been disturbed.
People can call a rehabilitator, who will determine whether there is a need for a rescue. Rehabilitators are trained to provide care for wild animals so they retain their natural fear of humans and do not become habituated or imprinted.
Nan Powers from Sierra Wildlife Rescue in Placerville gets hundreds of calls a year from concerned foothills residents.
“When people call us about a young wild animal they think is injured or abandoned, we first ask them the circumstances,” she said. “We may ask them to watch the animal from a distance for a short time and keep children and pets away. If it is clear that the mother is dead, has abandoned the baby, or it is ill or injured, we will either come get the animal ourselves or, if the rescuer is willing, provide information on the safe way to transport it to a rehabber.”
Wild animals carry ticks, fleas and lice, and they can transmit diseases to humans, including rabies and tularemia, so it is best to leave the responsibility for intervention to CDFW personnel or permitted wildlife rehabilitators.
In addition, it is illegal to keep orphaned or injured animals for more than 48 hours in California.
“It’s always best to leave young wildlife alone, unless it is confirmed that they are orphaned or injured, and never keep them as pets. Wildlife look so cute and cuddly when they are young, but when they grow up, they are difficult to handle and even dangerous,” Powers warned.
For more information on wildlife rehabilitation, visit www.dfg.ca.gov/wildlife/rehab/facilities.html .