April 24, 2011 in Outdoors

Bracing for the ‘baby season’

File photo

Marilyn Omlor, licensed wildlife rehabilitator, helps a “rescued” fawn feed. She said it’s almost always best to leave fawns in the wild.
(Full-size photo)

Wildlife rehabilitators are bracing for their busiest and saddest time of year as wildlife enters the nesting, fawning and calving season.

Many of the wild animals brought to wildlife rehabilitators don’t need assistance, especially in the cases of young critters.

“In May and June, fawns pose the biggest problem,” said Patricia Thompson of the Washington Fish and Wildlife department.

“They’re so cute and they melt your heart. But people bring them in to us because they don’t understand deer behavior.

“Deer mothers leave their fawns for 8-9 hours at a time. Even to the patient observer, it might look as though mom will never come back. But nine times out of 10 she will.

“Here’s the truth: Picking up a fawn and taking it away is almost a sure death sentence.

“A fawn can’t be raised without it being imprinted and habituated. And once it’s imprinted and habituated, it can’t be released.

“The best rule to follow – don’t touch fawns. If you have a concern, contact a rehabilitator first before touching it.”

Baby birds present a slightly different case.

“It’s OK to pick up a chick and put it back in its nest,” she said.

If the bird is older or the nest can’t be reached or found, place the chick in a tree or shrub or on a shaded portion of a roof, out of the way of cats, dogs and children.

Birds will not reject their young because “they smell like people,” she said. But don’t unnecessarily handle or move a chick from the general area where it was found.

The animal is likely to need assistance only if it shows obvious signs of illness or injury such as bleeding, vomiting, panting, shivering, lethargy, ruffled feathers or fur or attack by cat or dog.

“In most other cases, wildlife has a better chance of surviving when left in the wild,” she said.

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