By Mary Catherine Brooks
Wyoming County Bureau Chief
Each spring, West Virginia Division of Natural Resources officials work to remind people to leave all young wildlife alone.
“The spring season is the time of year when the woods and fields of West Virginia are full of new life,” said Gene Thorn, wildlife biologist at the West Virginia State Wildlife Center in French Creek.
“People have a great opportunity to view and enjoy young wildlife during this season, but it is especially important for the public to understand the need to avoid touching or disturbing these wild animals.”
Attempts to “rescue” young wildlife are often counter-productive, according to Thorn.
People can increase the chance of harm to young animals by getting too close, officials warn.
Humans leave scent that may attract a predator, according to officials.
“Wildlife viewing is an enjoyable and perfectly acceptable activity;” however, state Division of Natural Resources staff recommend the pastime be conducted from a safe distance and with the aid of binoculars.
“In addition to being detrimental to the welfare of young animals, handling wildlife potentially may expose humans to various wildlife-associated diseases, parasites and other health-related risks,” Thorn emphasized.
“Rabies, roundworms and other parasites such as lice and ticks can be transmitted to humans through the improper handling of wildlife.”
The Wildlife Center as well as DNR offices across West Virginia receive numerous calls each year concerning young wildlife, especially fawn deer that have been picked up by well-meaning residents.
“Many people often mistake a bedded fawn, with no mother in sight, as abandoned, but that is usually not the case,” according to officials.
Offspring are often hidden while the adult goes in search of food, and this separation may last for a few hours or all day, according to a spokesperson.
The spotted pattern and coloration of fawns as well as the lack of scent make these young animals difficult for predators to detect.
If a predator approaches a fawn, the young deer will normally hold very still until the threat passes, the spokesperson explained.
The fawn will wait until the very last moment before fleeing to safety if discovered by a predator, according to officials.
The doe will come back to check on her fawn at feeding time.
“Hiding the fawn and leaving it while the doe searches for food is an important survival tactic,” Thorn said.
“Humans are poor substitute parents for wild animals, because young wildlife require special diets and learn survival skills from their parents,” Thorn explained.
Removing the young wildlife from its natural environment almost certainly leads to death of the animal.
Additionally, officials caution, state laws prohibit the possession of wildlife without a permit.
“Under any circumstances, when you pick up a young animal in the wild you have taken it into your possession,” according to officials.
The fines for illegal possession of a fawn deer, black bear cub, baby raccoon, squirrel, or any other species taken or possessed during the closed season range from $20 up to a maximum of $1,000 and/or up to 100 days in jail.
“We want everyone to enjoy wildlife in West Virginia,” Thorn said. “For your own health and safety and to protect the wildlife, remember these wild animals should be left alone and allowed to stay wild.”
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