Wild critters are propagating all over the place nowadays and the fight for survival of the youngsters is hard enough without people meddling in it.
Animals and birds of all sorts are bringing forth offspring at this time of year. Sometimes our worlds overlap, and we humans may encounter some of those babies. Much more often than not, what we should do in the best interests of these wee things is nothing.
Intervention is rarely recommended when people discover wild infants. Nature equips wildlife with the instinctive skills necessary to raise their kids. It is not foolproof and, life being hard, all do not survive. But the process, however harsh, weeds out those that are not as strong or assertive and leaves the species improved.
People do not figure into the Darwinian equation very well. There are many kind-hearted humans inclined to save all baby creatures, even if it ruins them as wild animals or merely kills them.
What we often hear about is the abandoned or orphaned deer fawn that caring people rush in and rescue. This typically is a well-intended but cruel hoax.
We are peaking now for new whitetail fawns being deposited out there in the cover. But baby deer go through a period of about four weeks when they cannot move fast enough to avoid predators. Consequently, they are left by themselves most of the time.
Mother does do not avoid their babies because they don’t care about them. Just the opposite, does stay away from fawns most of the time so as to not draw attention to them by coyotes or other forms of certain death. A doe visits her fawn or fawns only perhaps a couple of times each day to nurse, and steers clear the rest of the time.
A new fawn, meanwhile, relies on its camouflaged coat (white dappling on brown) and a scarcity of scent to hide in plain sight by lying still with its head down in whatever weedy or brushy cover into which its mom places it.
If people find a lone fawn and try to save it by taking it to shelter or something, they thereby remove it from its mother, destroy its natural chance to grow up with the training it needs to become a wild deer and may even kill the little deer if they lack the expertise to provide for it.
Something else is this: Taking a baby deer from the wild is illegal, no more proper than shooting a deer out of season.
So, what should one do? In the case of a fawn found alone, the mother is probably close by, perhaps even watching. She will be in a position to care for the fawn as soon as the humans leave. So do nothing, then go away. Nature has got this.
There are those rarer cases, however, in which a mother critter is killed by a vehicle or something and there really is an orphaned fawn or two. In this case, a baby should go to a wildlife rehabilitator where skilled and licensed folks can take in a helpless baby and raise it toward a goal of release back into the wild later.
Honestly, wildlife rehabilitators are few and far between, in part because it is difficult, time demanding work and most of the rewards are personal. Nonetheless, there is a list of wildlife rehab workers and contact information on the Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources website at www.fw.ky.gov.
The realities of vulnerable baby deer and how one should (not) deal with them carry over to other species, too. Bad things happen to all sorts of wild juveniles, and some of them end up seemingly isolated and forlorn. Yet, more often than not, leaving such a critter to its own instincts and those of its parents or mom is the best option for a would-be helpful human.
If there is a stray small mammal, it has little chance to survive without mom to feed it what nature intended, and probably less chance of growing up as a wild whatever if it goes home (illegally) to live with a helpful human. Few have the time and know-how to nurture a baby creature.
Should a baby have strayed from its nursery nest/den, it really should not hurt to put it back if one knows where that is. Better that than to take it to your human home. Yet probably the right move is to not become involved at all.
Whether or not humans are around, sometimes a baby animal is supposed to be on its own, but sometimes it is becoming a casualty. Perhaps that is one youngster that is not supposed to make it.
In some instances, everything is fine. Often, a young bird that is fledging but has not mastered flight will bail out of its nest and ends up on the ground. But do not “save” it. Parent birds often feed these upstarts on the ground for a time until they grasp this flight business, at which time is they can wing their way back into a safer zone in the trees.
Should you find such a baby bird, leave it be, but try to keep pets inside or otherwise excluded from the flightless youngster in the meanwhile.
All wild newbies cannot survive. Changing that is not our job. Yet, we should not make things worse. Give them their best chance by leaving them be.
Steve Vantreese, a freelance outdoors writer, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.