What looks like abandoned wildlife may not need to be rescued

Tips on what to do if you come across young animals that appear to be abandoned in the wild.

The Fairfax County Police Department in Virginia wants people to know it’s fawn, and it’s not uncommon for newborn deer to be discovered on lawns, in flower beds and gardens, or in areas of tall grass near homes. What should people do if they discover one? The department said it should be left alone.

No good deed goes unpunished, and well-meaning people trying to rescue what they believe to be abandoned babies in the wild could do more harm than good.

“The mother may be out of sight, but probably nearby… The mother deer will be on the lookout and human presence may prevent her from returning. Give the fawn room and keep children and pets away so that the doe can return and care for her fawn.” police said:



“You should only seek help for a fawn if it shows itself” obvious signs of injury or distress, such as wandering and crying incessantly; has puffy eyes, shows signs of trauma, such as visible wounds or broken bones; or if there is a dead nursing doe nearby. If an animal displays these signs, contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator, veterinarian, or the animal protection police for further assistance and instruction.” according to the Fairfax County Animal Protection Police

It is routine for all types of wildlife to be left alone by the parents while they go out to forage and produce milk.

“At HRA, we see these animals coming in as abandoned orphans, when in reality well-meaning people have unnecessarily removed them from their parents’ care,” according to the Humane Rescue Alliance† “If you find yourself in the presence of a baby wild animal and you don’t know what to do, always call a professional before attempting to handle the baby.”

What about baby birds?

Experts at the National Audubon Society recommend that if you think you’ve found a sick or injured baby boy or nestling, immediately call a rehabilitator, state wildlife agency, or veterinarian — and don’t feed it.

What are called nestlings are baby birds with no or almost no feathers that have likely fallen from a nest. The National Audubon Society said if you come across one, return the bird to a nest — whether real or homemade — to keep an eye on the parents. If they don’t come back in an hour, call a wildlife rehabilitation center

Details on what to do in other specific circumstances can be found on the National Audubon’s Society website

in DC, the Humane Rescue Alliance works with City animals in the wild to rehabilitate many sick and injured creatures such as birds, opossums, squirrels, turtles, snakes, frogs or lizards are rehabilitated.

Signs that an animal may need to be rescued, according to the Humane Rescue Alliance, include:

  • Bleeding or open wounds
  • They fell from another animal’s mouth
  • They can’t use a leg or a wing
  • They are cold, wet or covered in maggots or flies

The Humane Rescue Alliance has tips for dealing with baby rabbits, squirrels, foxes and raccoons on her website

Licensed Wildlife Rehabilitators in Virginia can be found at the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources

Groups approved to work with wildlife in Maryland can be found at the Maryland Wildlife Rehabilitators Association

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