The Mountain Times

°F Wed, April 23, 2014

Central Vermont's Most Popular Weekly Newspaper

Young wildlife belong in the wild

Watching wildlife is enjoyable, especially when young animals appear in the spring. But it's best to keep your distance. Picking up young wildlife can do more harm than good, according to the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department.

It's also against the law.

When people see young animals alone, they often mistakenly assume these animals are helpless or lost, in trouble or needing to be rescued. Bringing young wildlife into a human environment often results in permanent separation from their mothers and a sad ending for the animal.

Handling wildlife could also pose a threat to the people involved. Wild animals can transmit disease and angry wildlife mothers can pose significant dangers.

Department scientists encourage wildlife watchers to respect the behavior of animals in the spring and early summer, and to resist the urge to assist wildlife in ways that may be harmful.  Some helpful tips:
•    Deer and moose nurse their young at different times during the day, and often leave young alone for long periods of time. These animals are not lost. Their mother knows where they are and will return.
•    Young birds on the ground may have left their nest, but their parents will still feed them.
•    Young animals such as fox and raccoon will often follow their parents. The family of a "wandering" animal searching for food is usually nearby but just out of sight to a person happening upon it.
•    Animals that act sick can carry rabies, parasites or other harmful diseases. Do not handle them. Even though they do not show symptoms, healthy-looking raccoons, foxes, skunks, and bats also may also be carriers of the deadly rabies virus.
•    Many wildlife species will not feed or care for their young when people are close by.  Obey signs that restrict access to wildlife nesting areas, including hiking trails that may be temporarily closed.
•    Keep domestic pets indoors, leashed or fenced in. Dogs and cats kill many baby animals each year.
•    Avoid projects that remove trees, shrubs and dead snags that contain bird and other nests during the spring and summer.

For information about rabies and nuisance wildlife, call the Vermont Rabies Hotline at 1-800-4RABIES (1-800-472-2437). If bitten or in direct contact with a raccoon, fox, skunk, or bat, or a domestic animal that has been in contact with one of these species, call the Vermont Department of Health at 1-800-640-4374.

For the safety of all wildlife taking a wild animal into captivity is illegal. If you find an orphaned animal, however, you can contact the nearest rehabilitator specializing in the species you've found. Look under "Wildlife Programs" on Vermont Fish & Wildlife's website (www.vtfishandwildlife.com) to learn about Vermont's wildlife rehabilitators.

Contact the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department at 1-802-241-3700 if you any questions.

Photo by Robert Tanner courtesy of VTF&W