CONCORD, N.H. - With the early spring, people are getting outside and some are observing young animals. If you encounter wildlife, even young animals that appear to need help, please remember that the kindest -- and safest -- thing to do is to leave them alone and let nature take its course, say officials from the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department.
Reports have already begun coming in to Fish and Game and local wildlife rehabilitators from people who have picked up young animals, often mistakenly thinking they are orphans.
"Picking up fawns, baby raccoons or young animals is an error in judgment," says Fish and Game Lt. Robert Bryant. "People think they're doing a good deed, but they are often removing the animal from the care of its parents and exposing themselves to the risk of disease. What's more, these actions may result in the animal having to be euthanized for rabies testing."
Young wild animals (including mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians) typically have their best chance of surviving when they are in their own natural environment, says Fish and Game Wildlife Biologist Kent Gustafson. What should you do if you find a young animal? "Give wildlife plenty of space and leave them alone and in the wild, where they belong," he said.
Gustafson explains that seeing a deer fawn alone, for example, does NOT mean that it is orphaned or that it needs your help; it is normal for a doe to leave her fawn alone while she goes off to feed. In many cases, the doe will not return until nightfall. "Fawns are not defenseless creatures. Their cryptic coloration, tendency to stay perfectly still and lack of scent are all adaptations that help them survive," Gustafson said. Does are easy to detect because of their size and scent, so they generally keep a distance from their fawns, except during brief nursing bouts, so that predators don't find them. If sympathetic people repeatedly visit a fawn, it can prolong the separation from the doe and delay important feeding.
"This hands-off policy also applies to bear cubs and moose calves," Gustafson continued. "It's also worth noting that sows and cows (female bears and moose) can and do actively protect their young. In any case, if you're lucky enough to see a deer fawn, bear cub, moose calf or other wild animal, count your blessings and leave the area."
Sadly, improper care of injured or orphaned wildlife often leads to their sickness or death. Remember -- only qualified people with special rehabilitator permits, issued through N.H. Fish and Game, may take in and care for injured or orphaned wildlife. Unless you have rehabilitator credentials, it is illegal to have in your possession or take New Hampshire wildlife from the wild and keep it in captivity. For a list of licensed wildlife rehabilitators, go to
The New Hampshire Fish and Game Department is the guardian of the state's fish, wildlife and marine resources and their habitats. Visit www.wildnh.com.