FRENCH CREEK, W.Va. – The West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (DNR) advises 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 or rehabilitate young wildlife are often counter-productive. Picking up or getting too close to wildlife greatly increases the chance of harm to the animal and/or the persons involved in this unwise practice. By touching young animals or close approach, humans leave scent that may attract a predator. Wildlife viewing is an enjoyable and perfectly acceptable activity; however, DNR recommends that this 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 can expose humans to various wildlife-associated diseases, parasites and other health-related risks,” said Thorn. “Rabies, roundworms and other parasites such as lice and ticks can be transmitted to humans through the improper handling of wildlife.”
The Wildlife Center and DNR offices statewide receive numerous calls each year concerning young wildlife, especially fawn deer that have been picked up by well-meaning residents. It is important to note that in almost every case these young animals have not been abandoned. In fact, the offspring are often hidden as the adult searches for food, and this separation can last for a few hours or all day.
The spotted pattern and coloration of fawns and their lack of scent make them difficult for predators to detect. If a predator approaches a fawn, the young deer will normally hold very still until the threat passes. The fawn will wait until the very last moment before fleeing to safety if discovered by a predator. Removing the young wildlife from its natural environment almost certainly leads to death of the animal.
As a final 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. 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,” said Thorn. “For your own health and safety and to protect the wildlife, remember these wild animals should be left alone and allowed to stay wild.”
Gene Thorn, Wildlife Biologist