Outdoors

Critter watch: It’s better to leave wildlife babies alone

A newborn whitetail fawn curls up and remains motionless while its mother left it between feedings. (Rich Landers)
A newborn whitetail fawn curls up and remains motionless while its mother left it between feedings. (Rich Landers)

A wildlife population explosion takes place around this time every year and anyone can stumble onto a baby critter virtually anywhere outside. 

“Wild bird and mammal species typically produce young in the spring and early summer,” says Phil Cooper of Idaho Fish and Game. “This allows the young to have time to gain the strength and size needed to survive the challenges of winter, or the rigors and dangers of fall migration.”

Wildlife managers make little attempt to hover and protect individual fawns and calves being born to deer, elk and moose this spring. Nature is geared to some surviving and some perishing.

Wild animal newborns are particularly vulnerable to predators in the first few days of life until they are able to run or fly well enough to escape predation.

Predators such as wolves, mountain lions, bears, bobcats, eagles, raccoons, skunks, weasels and other species need to eat to survive and nature provides.

But nature shouldn’t have to provide for domestic dogs and cats.

Pet owners can reduce wildlife injury or death to wild newborns during this critical period by keeping pets confined and dogs on a leash when outdoors.  Although pets may have plenty of food available, their predatory instincts can take over when allowed to run at large. 

People also can help young wildlife by leaving them alone.

Every spring, fish and wildlife agencies around the region receive several calls a day about deer fawns that people see, with no doe visible in the surrounding area, Cooper said.  Callers are often convinced that the fawn has been injured, abandoned or orphaned.

“While fawns are occasionally injured or orphaned, they are never abandoned,” he said.  “An adult doe has extremely strong parenting instincts and will not abandon a fawn.”

Wild parents often leave their offspring for long periods while they hunt or gather food.  A doe can leave her fawn hidden in the grass for eight hours until she determines the time is right to return and nurse.


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Rich Landers

Rich Landers


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