They are born in woods and brushy fields. From birth, they learn how to survive in a world where the daily challenge is to find enough to eat and try not to be eaten by other wild creatures.
For eons, wildlife have been born and raised without human surrogate parents. So the message is clear: leave wildlife babies alone.
Well-intentioned concern often does more harm than good.
Get too close to a bird’s nest and the young may leave the nest prematurely and not survive. Bring home a deer fawn and you’re taking it away from its mother. Feed a bear cub and the cub will become conditioned to humans and human food. All these scenarios are likely to compromise the animal’s survival chances.
Only licensed wildlife rehabilitators may possess injured or orphaned wildlife. Only persons with a captive cervid permit may keep deer in captivity.
To locate a licensed rehabilitator, go to Kentucky Fish and Wildlife’s website at fw.ky.gov and click on the “Hunting, Trapping & Wildlife” tab, then on “Injured and Orphaned Wildlife.”
When someone finds a deer fawn it’s often assumed that the fawn is abandoned.
But David Yancy, a deer biologist for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, explained that mother deer rarely abandon their newborns. “The mother leaves the fawn often for hours at a time, between morning and evening nursing,” said Yancy. “The doe stays away from the fawn because she doesn’t want to attract attention to it. While she’s away from her fawn she feeds and rests.”
Fawns are scentless at birth. They hide in grass and weeds, their spots helping to camouflage them.
If the mother deer feels threatened by the approach of a human or a predator, she moves off, so the threatening presence will follow her and not endanger the fawn.
Newborn deer remain bedded for the first few weeks of life until they are strong enough to run at their mother’s side to escape predators. The doe is never far from her fawn. “The mother is likely in some nearby woods. She’s definitely within earshot and will usually come running if the fawn bleats,” said Yancy.
Landowners are asked to leave a deer fawn alone if they encounter one. “If you find one while mowing your hay field, pick it up and put it somewhere nearby where you won’t be mowing. The mother will return and find it in the evening,” said Yancy.
The parents of songbirds are also attentive to the needs of their young.
“If you see a baby bird or a fledgling, you should leave it alone. Most likely the parents are nearby,” said Shawchyi Vorisek, an avian biologist with Kentucky Fish and Wildlife. “The parents stay with their young at least until they can find food on their own.”
Most songbird species are protected by federal law. Nests with eggs or young should be left alone. “Observe nests from afar,” added Vorisek. “Don’t go up to a nest or touch it, as that can leave a trail for predators to follow or cause the parents to abandon the nest.”