Keep Wildlife: Know what to do if you encounter baby wild animals this spring


As warmer spring weather approaches, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is reminding the public that wildlife and their young will migrate through Wisconsin.

Knowing what to do before finding a baby animal right now can make all the difference to protect its health and keep the wildlife in the wild. The DNR has several resources to help determine when baby wild animals need help and when it is best to leave them in their natural environment.

If you care, leave them there

First, remember the phrase, “If you care, leave them there.”

Usually it is perfectly natural for mothers, including white-tailed deer, to leave their young alone for long periods of time. Before fawns are strong enough to keep up with their mothers, they spend hours alone, quiet and silent. This natural behavior protects them from predators while their mothers forage for food.

Drawing attention to a fawn’s location can warn predators or keep the mother away longer than she’d like. You can help by keeping people and pets away. If you have interested children, they can learn to keep wildlife by observing the fawn from a safe distance.

Many other young wild animals spend time alone in the spring and summer. For species-specific advice, visit the DNRs Save Wildlife Wild Web Page for tips on deciding whether a young wild animal is truly orphaned or in need of assistance. You can also use the birdmammal or fawn keys for guidance in evaluating wildlife situations and choosing an appropriate course of action.

Know when to move a baby animal

If you find a baby animal in an unsafe location, such as near a roadway, you can gently move it several feet to a safer place. Before acting, put on gloves and a face mask to protect the animal’s health. Also consider your own safety when walking along a road.

The young animal’s mother will find her young if it is moved only a short distance. Human scent transfer will not cause wild animals to shed their young, but avoid touching the baby animal unless absolutely necessary.

Helping sick or injured wild animals

If you find a wild animal that appears sick or injured, leave it alone. Take pictures and make notes about what you observe. Then call the DNR or a recognized nature rehabilitator for guidance. Visit the DNR website for a directory of rehabilitators in your area.

If the wildlife rehabilitator you speak to determines that a wild animal needs rehabilitation, place the animal in a ventilated container. Place the container in a dark, warm, and quiet area until you can arrange transportation to a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. Reduce animal stress by keeping children and pets away. Do not give food or water; this can do more harm than good. See our Wildlife Transport Recommendations Webpage For more information.

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