Leave young wildlife in the wild

Don’t pick up that baby animal—its mother will be right back

The author is president of Bidwell Wildlife Rehabilitation and co-founder of North Valley Animal Disaster Group.

I’ve been involved in rehabilitating orphaned and injured wildlife with Bidwell Wildlife Rehabilitation (BWR) for over 30 years. During that time, I’ve rehabbed hundreds of animals and helped hundreds of people reunite orphaned babies with their mothers.

Above all, there is a type of phone call that I dread—the kind from someone who has picked up a baby rabbit or fawn.

Rabbit and deer mothers care for their babies in a different way from other mammals such as squirrels, possums and raccoons. Fawns and baby rabbits are left alone for almost the entire day. Because these babies nest on the ground, these conscientious mamas can’t risk attracting predators, so they visit the babies only once or twice a day to feed them.

If a well-intentioned animal lover finds a baby rabbit or fawn by itself in a wooded or grassy area, here are four important considerations: 1) Is the baby in immediate danger from dogs, traffic or other hazards? 2) Does the baby appear emaciated or unhealthy? 3) Is the baby crying out for its mother? (Healthy, well-fed babies are silent.) 4) Is the baby dirty or covered in insects?

If the answer to these questions is no, it is 99 percent certain that the mama is taking good care of her baby, and no intervention is needed. If people take the baby animal away from its home and mama, that wildlife is essentially being kidnapped. All rehabbers know that it is far better for wild animals to be raised by their mothers.

What if you are reading this and, by some crazy coincidence, you just picked up a baby rabbit or fawn? Put it back where you found it ASAP! Wildlife mamas will not reject their babies if they’ve been touched by humans.

If you want to help these babies, often the best course of action is no action at all. If you’ve encountered baby wildlife and aren’t sure how to help, call the BWR hotline at 343-9004.