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Wildlife Babies: 'If You Care, Leave Them There'

White-tailed deer fawn.
White-tailed deer fawn.

Now is the time of year when people can find themselves face to face with wildlife, including baby animals. It's not always clear what to do when you find one of these animals without their mother.

Dave Pauli has taken care of a few baby rabbits and three broods of birds in the past weeks - all unnecessarily brought to him by concerned people. He’s a senior wildlife responder for the Humane Society.

“In general, we advise people, 'If you care, leave them there,'" Pauli says. "And normally, Mother Nature will do the right thing and they’ll be able to go back with their parent or parents and live a normal life."

Pauli is stationed in Billings. He’s worked with wild animals for 30 years, studying, catching and fostering them. He also gives advice to people who contact him everyday wondering what to do when they find a baby animal.

“When they call Fish and Game or they call any agency, they’re told ‘Put them back out there. Return them to where you found them and let nature take its course.’ That is not a popular answer for a lot of people," he says.

Pauli said if there’s a baby squirrel, bird or racoon on the ground and there are dogs or cats nearby, move them off the ground. If a shallow rabbit den gets uncovered, recover it. Then leave. The mother will usually come and move any babies back to safety.

Greg Lemon is with Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks.

“When people intervene, they’re intervening into what is a normal wildlife circumstance," Lemon says. 

Lemon says does will leave their fawns tucked away for days while they feed, regularly checking on them.

Fledgling birds look scraggly and have trouble flying, but only because they’re new to life outside their nest.

He adds that it’s illegal to have wild animals, and FWP doesn’t have the resources to rehabilitate and release most back into the wild when people do take them. They often won’t survive. It’s better to leave them where they are.

Contact a wildlife rehabilitator, animal control officer or FWP with any questions.

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