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Forests, Fish and Wildlife

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Dealing with "Abandoned" Young Wildlife

When people come in contact with young mammals or birds that seem to be abandoned or lost, it is human nature to step in and try to help. Often these animals are found near our homes or cottages and in places where we go to walk, bike and enjoy nature.

This instinct to "help" can often be detrimental to the young animals and at times to the person who steps in. Before you act, please consider the following tips for dealing with young wild animals

1. Are They Actually Lost or Abandoned?

In most cases the answer is NO.

They may seem to be on their own but:
  • The parents are usually nearby gathering food and know where they left their young.
  • some parents may be aggressive towards people they find handling their young.
  • handling the young can put strange smells on their fur. Some species may reject their young if the scent is wrong.
  • moving them to another area can make it harder for the parents to find them and easier for predators.

2. Are There Health Issues Related to Handling Wild Animals?

Each species has its own diseases and parasites and these are parts of the natural cycle of population control. Handling wild animals can transmit serious infections and illnesses or may even cause death from:
  • Viruses
  • Bacteria
  • Fungi
  • Tape Worms and Hook Worms
  • Fleas and Ticks

3. Are There Places That Take in "abandoned" Young Animals?

. The most commonly "abandoned " mammals are raccoons, snowshoe hare, foxes and skunks. These species have healthy, stable populations that do not require extra conservation efforts.

Some people will move these animals to another area. This can put unnecessary stresses on the populations that already live there and on occasion, can introduce diseases or parasites into the release area.

4.  Can These Animals be Easily Domesticated?

Most wild creatures are difficult if not impossible to properly domesticate. Difficulties can range from an inability to housebreak the animal, to scratching and biting, damage to household furnishings,  loud cries and hostile reactions to strangers.

These animals are naturally adapted to living in the wild but they must learn those skills from their parents. Keeping young animals as pets prevents them from learning how to survive on their own and makes them much more dependent on people for food and shelter. This can lead to problems in other areas if they are released back into the wild.

5. Can people Feed Young Animals?

It is natural for wildlife populations to produce more young each year than the habitat can support.

Feeding young wildlife, in particular mammals, can lead to overcrowded habitats,  and increased competition for local wild food supplies, disease and parasites, and problematic interactions with people.

6. Are There Legal Issues?

. Wild animals cannot be kept in captivity. Failing to do so can result in fines and/or legal costs.
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