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How to Help 'Lost' Wild Animals: Leave them Alone!

In the spring wildlife are giving birth and raising their young, teaching them what to eat, where to take shelter and how to survive in the wild. During that time mothers leave their young alone, often for extended periods of time, to feed and so that they do not draw attention to their newborns. Unfortunately, every year well-meaning people pick up young wildlife and take them home in an attempt to care for them.

White-tail deer fawn. Photo courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife. MyOutdoorBuddy.com
White-tail deer fawn. Photo courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife

At the OR and CA DFW offices many calls come in from people who have picked up fawns, young raccoons and birds. People also bring animals into agency offices. People are concerned about young wildlife, but the best thing to do is to leave them where you found them..

Picking up young wildlife dramatically decreases their chance of survival. Every year attempts are made to "rescue" fawns and birds from robins to raptors. These animals should have been left where they were. The fact is, mothers who leave their young know exactly where they are and will return. And when fledgling birds are learning to fly, they will spend time on the ground. Deer fawns and elk calves are very difficult to rehabilitate for release into the wild and their survival rate following release is usually low.

Stay away from young animals, especially bear cubs. Mother is there and no one wants to get between a mother and her cubs. The only exception is if the mother has been hit by a car or has been killed, and even then you should call the CA DFW, the Highway Patrol, the Oregon DFW or state police and tell them where the animal is.

What you should do

  • Never assume an animal is orphaned and remove it from the woods, forest or even your backyard. Leave it alone and leave the area. Call your local ODFW office or OSP before you approach any young wildlife.
  • Keep your dog or cat away from young wildlife.
  • If you see an animal that is clearly is in distress, is being disturbed by people or pets, or is lying near or on a road, call your local CA DFW, the Highway Patrol, the nearest ODFW office the Oregon State Police office, or a local wildlife rehabilitation center that is approved by these agencies.
  • If you see a seal pup, young sea lion, or other marine mammal in distress, contact OSP’s hotline at 1-800-452-7888.

Don’t pick up young wildlife, it’s illegal
Removing wildlife from the wild and keeping it in captivity without a permit is against the law in both states. Holding marine mammals or migratory birds, or disturbing the nests, eggs, and young of migratory birds, are violations of federal laws.

For information on young wildlife, visit Living with Wildlife.

[Editor's Note: Please share with our readers what you know that will enhance your outdoor experience in Northern California or Southern Oregon. What have you learned? Your experience in the outdoors might be helpful to others. What not to do is just as important as what to do. Please send your strategies, ideas, tips, techniques and personal experiences to editor@MyOutdoorBuddy.com. Please include your name and hometown.]

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Website Design Photo Credits: MyOutdoorBuddy.com thanks the following individuals for contributing photographs for use on our Home and Section pages: Anders Tomlinson of Tule-Lake.com, Casey Allen of Bayside, CA; Jason Haley of Medford, OR; Steve Breth of Burney, CA; Tracy McCormack of Eureka, CA; Grant Thompson of Grand Junction, CO; Richard Bott of Shingletown, CA; Ron Loftus of Yreka, CA; Scott Caldwell of Montague, CA; Lorissa Soriano of Alturas, CA and the late Dave Menke, formerly with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge Complex.

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