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Leave Young Wildlife Alone

Spring is a time of rebirth.   Never is mother nature’s mystery so completely on display than during the months bridging winter and summer.   A brief walk outside will reveal offspring off every species, both on the land and in the water.    

It’s not uncommon to find those young animals alone.  However, state wildife officials caution that should be an experience to be enjoyed from afar.

Too often however, the spring becomes a time when Rob Sylvester who manages the West Virginia Wildlife Center is forced to explain it’s not the West Virginia Wildlife "REHAB" Center. 

"Every year, we are just innundated with phone calls from well meanign people that have picked up baby raccoon or opossum or deer or whatever," said Sylvester.  "The first thing they think of is the wildlife center, thinking they have the know-how to take care of these things." 

Sylvester says the answer to all of those calls is to leave the animals alone and not pick them up.

Deer, in particular, leave their fawns hidden in high cover for the protection of the young.   A young fawn isn’t capable of keeping up with an adult deer in the event a predator is nearby.   A young deer also has no scent, giving it a defense mechanism against detection.  The mother staying away from the faw most of the time will actually draw predators off the trail.

Sylvester says oppossums, raccoons, and baby birds are among the most common animal people find and believe to be abandoned.   While the chances are pretty strong they are not abandoned, he says even if they are, it’s not man’s place to interfere.

"Many of these animals really can’t be put back out in the wild after they’ve been in the possession of someone for a few days,"  Sylvester said. "They actually imprint and think they are human."

Losing the intstinctive fear of man almost always results in the death of that animal eventually.  Sometimes a tame animal will fall to a hunter. Other times the animal will be prey for a predator.  However, most likely if the animal survives into adulthood after imprinting on humans it’s likely they’ll become a nuisance and have to be put down by animal control officers. 

There are laws against harboring wildlife in West Virginia.   Sylvester suggests if you’re considering taking on one of these baby animals as a pet, it would be wise to rethink that plan.

"Rabies and some of the other parasites that animals can have can be contracted by taking care of these babies,"  said Sylvester.

Raccons are among the more sinister that carry a roundworm that easily trasmits to humans.  It can cause dire illness among adults and possibly blindness in infants.  

There are always discoveries made by farmers as they mow that first cutting of hay in May or June.  Hayfields are extremely attractive as a hiding place for fawns or a clutch of wild turkey eggs.  Sylvester suggest simply moving the fawn or the nest if it is discovered in time to the edge of the field in some high weed cover.  He says the mothers will locate their young and resume their care.

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