Spring is here, and with that, so is an influx of babies right in our own backyards. Growing up, many of us heard all sorts of bologna about encountering wildlife, and you may have felt like if you even looked at a baby critter for too long, it’s mom was never coming back. Let's debunk some of the myths and learn some new tips!
Myth #1: If you touch or come to close to babies, they will be abandoned by their mother.
First things first, I’m by no means encouraging anyone to touch wildlife. HOWEVER, if your kid picked up that cute little robin nestling that fell from it’s nest without wearing gloves *GASP*, you can still set the baby right back into its nest and its mother will be forever grateful. If the baby is severely injured, please don’t tuck him back in there…but in any other case, birds can’t count and mom will still be back to feed her other babes even if she saw you poking around her nest.
Myth #2: If rabbits make a nest in a bad spot, they will abandon their babies.
Momma rabbits are super clever. Even if they seemed to have built a nest in a terrible spot, they will still be back. Rabbits only come twice a day to feed their kits…once at dawn and once at dusk. And they only stay just long enough for the kits to feed. Sounds neglectful, right? Not really–it’s actually quite smart. Dams know that the longer they linger around the nest, the more likely they are to attract a predator. So even if you don’t see momma bunny, she is nearby and will surely be back. Keep in mind though, if the nest is in a really inconvenient to humans or unsafe spot, you cannot just move the nest. Mom isn’t going to know where you moved it to! A good practice is to flip an old laundry basket over the nest during the day so you avoid stepping on the nest, prevent your dog from getting into it, and avoid hitting it while mowing the grass. Then, at dusk, just take the basket off. Mom isn’t going to risk it and come to feed them during the day anyway.
Myth #3: If you find a baby bunny in your yard, he is lost.
Little cottontails are the cutest things, but they are absolutely terrified of this great big world. They haven’t really developed a sense of “fight or flight” yet, and instead they have one mode: fright. They freeze in fear and will let you scoop them right up. Please don’t do this. If his ears are up and his eyes are open, he’s old enough to be adventuring around on his own. Let him be, and if for some reason someone did scoop him up, have them put him back right where they found him. No matter how cute they are or how young they are when you find them, they will live in a constant state of fear if you try to make them your pet and likely won’t survive.
Myth #4: If you touch or harbor wildlife without permits, you will get in trouble.
This is true but only to an extent. Every State is different, but in the State of Michigan for example, you are covered by the “Good Samaritan Law”. This means, you have 48 hours to get the animal to a Licensed Wildlife Rehabilitator. And if they aren’t permitted to handle that specific species, they have another 24 hours to bring the animal to a contact they know that does. If you find a hurt animal, veterinarians also have the legal freedom to euthanize or stabilize the animal before transferring to someone with the appropriate permits. Of course, you will have to find a veterinarian that is willing and you will have to pay for the bill so don’t get too ahead of yourself.
Myth #5: If you find a fawn alone, it’s mother probably was hit by a car.
Momma deer is ALWAYS nearby watching her baby. Just like with the rabbits, she is trying to avoid drawing attention to where her fawn is nested. Leave Bambi alone. And this leads us into our tips…
TIP #1: DON’T HOVER…sure you want to monitor to make sure mom is coming back, but if you are sitting watching 24/7, she’s not going to come back.
TIP #2: LEAVE IT BE...more often than not, in the case of babies, they are fine and so are their parents. More babies are made into orphans than there are actual orphans by assuming that’s what they are. Unless you know without a doubt the mother is dead or the baby is injured or sick, let the wild be wild.
TIP #3: NOT EVERYTHING CAN BE SAVED… …and it sucks, but it’s the truth. My rule of thumb is to
let nature take it’s course unless people have gotten involved, the public is at risk or upset, or human-animal-conflict is the reason an animal is suffering. In that case, people with the proper knowledge and permits need to remedy the situation or the animal needs to be humanely euthanized to end it’s suffering. There’s only so much we can do with our time and resources and it’s important to set limits and boundaries in order to be realistic and humane.
TIP #4: WILDLIFE SPECIES DO NOT MAKE GOOD PETS…sorry ’bout it, but don’t humanize a litter of baby raccoons because then they are going to grow up to be lazy in the wild and too unsafe to be pets.
TIP #5: IF YOU DON’T KNOW THEN ASK…before interfering with wildlife, contact a rehabber and see what they think the best course of action is. They are more than happy to help. If you have a conflict of any type with wildlife, contact them too. Here is a link to DNR’s list of Wildlife Rehabbers in the State of Michigan: http://www.michigandnr.com/dlr/