Wildlife rescues can do more harm than good


400-BABY-RACOON-RESCUENortheast Region Public Information Coordinator, Joy M. Hill, reminds Historic City News readers that, as trees and flowers are blossoming, birds are building nests and critters are being born; so resist the temptation to rescue animals — that don’t need rescuing.

After giving birth, adult wildlife must forage to provide food for themselves and their young. This means leaving their newborns for short periods when winter is finally over.

Baby deer, temporarily left in a safe place while their mothers feed nearby, become common targets of “misplaced rescues”. Such animals are not necessarily “abandoned” as some well-intentioned folks believe. In many cases, however, such rescues may do more harm than good.

“In most cases, it is absolutely not in a fawn’s best interest to rescue it,” said Justin Ellenberger, wildlife biologist at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Guana River Wildlife Management Area in St. Johns County.

Ellenberger says what typically happens is someone discovers a young deer waiting for its mother. Often, those fawns are found in palmetto patches or in recently burned areas, where a doe has placed her new offspring for protection. These settings tend to help mask the fawn’s scent, thus providing good protection from the keen nose of a predator.

People discover these seemingly abandoned baby deer and become concerned when the parent is nowhere in sight. The would-be rescuers falsely believe the young animal will perish unless they save it or take it to a wildlife rehabilitation center.

“Unfortunately, actions of this kind usually have the opposite effect of a rescue,” Ellenberger said. “The stress created by changing the animal’s diet and surroundings is often fatal.”

If the rescued fawn manages to survive, its return to the wild is practically impossible because of human imprinting or a lack of survival skills. If it had remained wild, the young deer would have learned the necessary survival skills from its mother.

Seek advice from wildlife professionals before attempting to rescue any animal.

“Remember that in most cases, it’s better to leave wildlife wild,” Ellenberger said.

For more information on Florida’s wildlife and what you can do to help, go to MyFWC.com/Conservation and select “How You Can Conserve” and then “Wildlife Assistance – Injured or Nuisance Wildlife.”


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