Many concerned citizens call our Cooperative Extension office around this time of year because they have found an abandoned baby animal in the wild. They want to know if they can keep it and what to feed it. In most cases, the best answer is to leave the animal where you found it.
Most times, a baby animal is not lost or abandoned, but placed there by the parent or parents to keep it hidden from predators while they are not far off feeding or collecting food for the baby. A good example of this is a baby bird that is learning to fly but has not quite learned yet. The babies may not be fully feathered yet, and that is OK. The bird’s parents will keep watch on the fledgling, fending off any predators and providing food until it has mastered the art of flying.
The parents know the best way to provide for their offspring’s survival and what is appropriate for that species. This ensures that they retain their natural wild behaviors.
You may find a fawn lying in the tall grass by itself. This does not mean it has been abandoned. Its parent may have just lured predators away or is simply grazing nearby. You can be assured that the doe is not far away and is keeping a good eye on the fawn. If you come across a spotted fawn, it is best to just leave the area quietly.
The more serious cases of animals seemingly being abandoned are due to injury. In some of these cases, a permitted rehabilitator who is trained and experienced in caring for the animal may be the best solution. You can see a list of permitted rehabilitators at www.ncwildlife.org/InjuredWildlife.aspx.
You should always respect wildlife and leave animals alone. Nature has its own plan to balance itself out. Even though baby animals are cute and cuddly, they cannot be kept in your house or your yard. The reason is that it is not legal. Individuals are not permitted to possess or raise any species of wild animal in captivity.
You should never attempt to tame wildlife. People trying to help wild animals often find that the animals are scared and sometimes the would-be helpers get seriously injured. There is also the concern of diseases and parasites that wildlife may carry that humans are at risk of contracting. Diseases such as rabies, Lyme disease, and tuberculosis are very common in wildlife. Young animals could also become dependent on humans and if released back into the wild, they normally die because they are not able to find food or water by themselves.
Most people have the very best intentions to try to help when they find wild animals. However, more harm may be created for the animal and also themselves.
It’s OK to enjoy wildlife, but wild animals need to be left in their natural habitat. This is not only for the animals’ well being, but for your own safety as well. The best way that you can help wild animals is to leave them in their natural surroundings.
If you need help with wildlife issues or any livestock information, please call our office at 997-8255.
Tiffanee Conrad works as the livestock agent for the Richmond County Cooperative Extension.