SALEM, Ore.— Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists want to remind Oregonians that removing a young animal from the wild often results in its early death.
Each year about this time, while Oregonians are heading outdoors to enjoy the warm weather, Oregon wildlife are giving birth to and raising their young. Also around this time of year, ODFW often receives calls from people who have picked up fawns, fledgling birds, newborn squirrels and even seal pups because they believe the animals have been abandoned.
These well-intentioned people don’t understand that the newborns are temporarily and naturally away from their parents. Unfortunately, the majority of people who “rescue” young wildlife are unable to provide an appropriate diet and environment for the animal. As a result, the animal can suffer malnourishment and often death.
For example, a few years ago a concerned landowner removed a young, apparently orphaned western gray squirrel from the wild and fed it cow’s milk. When the squirrel became lethargic, he called ODFW but the animal, suffering from malnutrition and hypothermia, died within an hour of ODFW taking possession of it.
Even if a young animal does survive human care, it has been denied the chance to learn important skills from its mother such as finding food and escaping from predators, so it often does not survive long after being reintroduced to the wild. For example, in Klamath Falls a few years ago, Oregon State Police cited a couple that had removed a fawn from the wild and were keeping it in their backyard restrained with a dog chain and collar. The fawn was taken to a wildlife rehabilitation facility and released in early fall with a radio-collar to track its movements. Within three weeks of its release, the deer was taken by a predator.
This fawn’s experience is typical. When reintroduced into the wild, “rescued” fawns often don’t survive. In a Missouri study, 71 percent of rehabilitated fawns died soon after being reintroduced into the wild. Several years ago, ODFW conducted a survival study of 12 radio-collared fawns that had been removed from the wild, rehabilitated and then released. None survived for long in the wild.
Removing young wildlife also puts stress on the parent animal that returns from foraging for food or other activities to find its offspring removed. Deer have been known to spend hours and even days trying to relocate their fawns.
“Unless the death of an adult animal is witnessed firsthand, no young animal should be presumed orphaned,” said ODFW veterinarian Dr. Colin Gillin. “Individuals who see an animal that is clearly in distress should call their local ODFW office or the Oregon State Police.”
For more information on what to do when encountering young wildlife, visit http://www.dfw.state.or.us/resources/viewing/