What to do with Abandoned Fawn, Other Wildlife?

Have you found what you believe is an abandoned animal such as a deer fawn, rabbit, baby bird or other wildlife species? Well, before trying to scoop this animal up out of its natural environment and giving rehabilitation a go, first determine whether you really to to interject yourself into the situation.

Found a Fawn or Bird?

Spring is a time for all things new. Not just new leaves and green grass, but new, young of the year animals… everywhere! Rising temperatures and longer days mean spring is here and newborn wildlife will become increasingly visible. It’s at this time that we should understand that wildlife management is not just for far away places, but it also has to take place at home, in both the front and backyards.

People’s desire to help seemingly “abandoned” animals such as fawns, young birds and baby bunnies is understandable. It’s human nature to take care of things. However, despite the best of intentions, people that pick up these animals are often times simply abducting a wild, baby animal from its parents who have “placed” the youngster while they forage for food and water. Wildlife often leave their young animals alone for the majority of the day. This limits activity around baby wildlife and serves as a means of protection.

Abandoned Wildlife in Focus

First, understand that very few animals are orphaned and fewer are abandoned. Secondly, before you pluck that little critter our of the grass, keep in mind that many would-be rescue stories end bad. In fact, some species of baby animals must be euthanized because they cannot be released back into the wild, and zoos and sanctuaries do not have space to hold them.

“The bottom line is that ‘helping’ or ‘rescuing’ baby wildlife unnecessarily creates an “orphan,” and in some cases is inhumane. The mother is often left searching for her young, and baby wildlife raised by humans is less likely to survive when they are released back into the wild,” said Mike Demlong, wildlife education program manager with Arizona Game and Fish. “The department’s wildlife rehab center and others around the state are inundated every year with baby birds and rabbits – and even bobcat kittens, bighorn lambs and elk calves – that were never abandoned and should not have been taken from the wild. In essence, these baby animals were kidnapped.”

What to Do Next: Protect Fawns & Wildlife by Securing Area

Young wildlife such as rabbits and squirrels found in your yard or in the field are rarely abandoned. Typically, once the perceived predator (you, or your cat or dog) leaves the area, one or both parents will return and continue to care for the young. The same can be said of deer fawns. They are survivors and mother will return, but will keep her space if humans are near.

Baby birds are the most common wildlife species encountered by the public and removed from the wild. It is common to find young birds after strong winds and rain, thunderstorms during the spring and early summer. Birds that have fallen from the nest can be placed back in the nest or as close as possible. Those that are partially flighted should be left alone or in some cases moved nearby out of harm’s way.

Contrary to popular belief, human scent will not prevent the parents from returning to care for their young. Eggs of ground-nesting birds like quail, turkey or other grassland nesting species should be left in place when discovered. Many individuals are passionate about caring for wild animals, but keep the best interest for baby wildlife in mind. Sometimes the best management for wildlife is letting it be while providing it a great place to live.

So what should you do with that lost fawn, bird? Walking away can be difficult, but it’s often the best course of action when an “abandoned” fawn, bird or rabbit is found. Let it go so it can grow!

Managing for wildlife and habitat