Young animals are rarely orphaned and it’s important to leave them be.
As many head outside to enjoy the longer days and warmer weather this spring, they may come across a variety of newborn animals. It may appear young creatures are abandoned, but that’s usually not the case. The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) reminds Missourians that interfering with wildlife does more harm than good.
MDC State Wildlife Veterinarian Sherri Russell explained that it’s rare for young animals to be orphaned.
“If the young is left alone, the parent will usually return,” she said. “Parents are normally out searching for food and cannot constantly attend to their offspring.”
Chicks are one common type of young wildlife people may come across in the spring.
“If you see a fledgling hopping on the ground, leave it be and bring pets inside,” Russell encouraged. “These young birds can spend up to 10 days hopping on the ground learning to fly as their parents keep watch. If you find one that has no feathers, you can return it to the nesting area if possible, as it likely fell out of its nest.”
Other common wildlife people may encounter include young eastern cottontail rabbits.
“Many people love to see the young rabbits and may try to take them inside. But seldom survive in captivity and can actually die of fright from being handled,” warned Russell. “Even if the animal appears to be injured, leave it in the nest because the mother will likely return.”
Despite popular opinion, wildlife mothers do not abandon their young because of a human scent, and most newborn animals do not survive in captivity.
“People have good intentions, but the care and rehabilitation of wildlife requires special training, facilities, and permits,” Russell explained. “Without such proper care, wild animals will remain in poor health and could eventually die. It’s also illegal to possess many wild animals without a valid state or federal permit.”
Russell also cautioned that wildlife can become dangerous as they mature, and can also carry parasites, disease, and has the potential to damage property.
“Native wildlife can carry mites, ticks, lice, fleas, roundworms, tapeworms, rabies, distemper, tuberculosis, respiratory diseases, and skin diseases,” she said. “Some of these can be transmitted to humans.”
It can be tempting to welcome wildlife into homes, but the best help people can offer them is to leave them be.
For more information on Missouri’s many wildlife species, visit MDC’s online Field Guide at https://mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/field-guide.