May 24, 2012
SALEM, Ore.—It is spring: Oregon’s wildlife are giving birth and raising their young, teaching them what to eat, where to take shelter and how to survive in the wild. And, during that time mothers leave their young alone, often for extended periods of time, to feed and so that they do not draw attention to their newborns. Unfortunately, every year well-meaning people pick up young wildlife and take it home in an attempt to care for it, and if calls to local ODFW offices are any indication, spring 2012 will not be an exception.
Tonya Moore, ODFW North Willamette Watershed District assistant wildlife biologist, has received two calls in two days about fawns—one Portland-area family had taken a fawn into their home (it was later returned to where it had been picked up).
Moore reports that common calls this time of year are from people who have picked up fawns, young raccoons and birds. People also bring animals into ODFW and other agency offices around the state. “We know people are concerned about young wildlife, but the best thing to do is to leave them where you found them,” said Moore.
“Picking up young wildlife dramatically decreases their chance of survival,” said Jim Cadwell, ODFW wildlife biologist in LaGrande. “Every year we get fawns and birds from robins to raptors—all animals that should have been left where they were. The fact is, mothers who leave their young know exactly where they are and will return. And when fledgling birds are learning to fly, they will spend time on the ground.”
Additionally, Cadwell explained that deer fawns and elk calves are very difficult to rehabilitate for release into the wild and their survival rate following release is usually low.
In Central Point, Oregon, Rosemary Stussy, ODFW wildlife biologist, gets calls every spring and summer about young bears “alone” in the woods and fledgling birds on the ground. As for the young black bears that are romping through the woods, Stussy said, “Stay away. Mother is there and no one wants to get between a mother and her cubs. The only exception is if the mother has been hit by a car or has been killed, and even then you should call ODFW or OSP and tell them where the animal is.”
What you should do
- Never assume an animal is orphaned and remove it from the woods, forest or even your backyard. Leave it alone and leave the area. Call your local ODFW office or OSP before you approach any young wildlife.
- Keep your dog or cat away from young wildlife.
- If you see an animal that is clearly is in distress, is being disturbed by people or pets, or is lying near or on a road, call your local ODFW office, Oregon State Police office, or a local wildlife rehabilitation center that is approved by ODFW.
- If you see a seal pup, young sea lion, or other marine mammal in distress, contact OSP’s hotline at 1-800-452-7888.
Don’t pick up young wildlife, it’s illegal
Removing wildlife from the wild and keeping it in captivity without a permit is a Class A misdemeanor. Holding marine mammals or migratory birds, or disturbing the nests, eggs, and young of migratory birds, are violations of federal laws.
For information on young wildlife, visit the Living with Wildlife section of ODFW’s website.