By Brett Abbott, Biologist Aide
A common call received by Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries personnel is, “I have found an abandoned baby or injured animal.” The most common questions asked are, “What do I need to do with it?”, “What can I feed it?”, “Can I keep it?”, or “Can you come and pick it up?” The most common answers from wildlife professionals are often not the ones people want to hear.
First, officers ask when, where, and how the animal was found and determine the most logical, legal, and professional answers. In most cases, the most logical and professional answer is just place the animal back where you originally found it. Many times a baby animal is not lost or abandoned, but placed there by the parent or parents to keep it hidden from predators while the parents are not far off feeding or collecting food for the youngster. A good example of this is a baby bird that had fledged and is learning to fly, but has not quite learned yet. The parent birds will keep watch on the fledgeling, fending off would-be predators and providing food until it has mastered the art of flying. You may find a fawn deer lying in a grassy meadow by itself. This does not mean it has been abandoned. Its parent may have just lured predators away or is simply feeding nearby. You can rest assured that the doe is not far away and keeping a good eye on the fawn. If you come across a spotted fawn, please do not assume that it has been abandoned or it is lost, just leave the area quietly.
The more serious cases of animals seemingly being abandoned is due to injury. In some of these cases, a permitted rehabilitator that is trained and experienced in caring for the animal may be the best solution. More often than not, you should respect wildlife and leave animals alone. Mother Nature has her own plan to handle excess animals and to provide food for other wildlife. This is by no means cruel, but is the circle of life-the balance of nature the way it was meant to be.
Yes, baby animals are cute and cuddly and the answer people usually do not want to hear is, “No, you cannot keep the animal.” The reason is that it is not legal. Individuals are not permitted to possess and/or raise any species of wild animal in captivity.
Wild animals are meant to be wild and not attempted to be domesticated. People trying to help wild animals often find that they are truly wild and sometimes receive serious injuries from them. There also is the concern of diseases and parasites wildlife may carry that humans may be at risk of contracting. Diseases such as rabies, Lyme disease, and tuberculosis are just a few. Young animals become imprinted and dependent up their human captors and if released back into the wild, normally become a nuisance or simply die because of the human interference in their lives.
Most people have the very best intentions at heart when they find wild animals. What they do not realize is more harm may be created for the animal and also themselves. Enjoy wildlife, but leave animals to their natural world. Not only for the animal’s well being, but for human safety. Allow wild animals to live the way they were meant to live, wild and free.