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home : features : features May 26, 2016

6/5/2013 6:01:00 AM
Let nature take its course
'Helping' young wildlife may do more harm than good
CourtesyYoung wild animals may look abandoned, but chances are their parents are waiting nearby. Plus, intervening may endanger the animal.

Young wild animals may look abandoned, but chances are their parents are waiting nearby. Plus, intervening may endanger the animal.

Don Martin
The Great Outdoors

KINGMAN - Young wildlife can be encountered throughout the spring and the Arizona Game and Fish Department reminds the public that wildlife, like humans, will take steps to protect their young.

For wildlife, leaving young behind is generally a protective sleight-of-hand trick by animals as a response to a potential threat. These animals have not been abandoned and should not be whisked away by well-intentioned individuals.

Such an action can have dire consequences for wildlife and your wallet.

"The intentions are good, but the results are most often a death sentence," said Erin Butler, game specialist with the Game and Fish Kingman office. "The first instinct is to lend a helping hand, but people have to fight that urge."

In addition to the negative impacts to the animals, individuals removing wildlife are subject to citation and potential civil assessment for the loss of wildlife to the State of Arizona.

Young animals brought to the Game and Fish office at an age at which they can't survive are humanely euthanized.

Young wild animals are rarely abandoned, Butler said. When a perceived threat - such as a human in close proximity - disappears, the parents return and continue to care for the young, while removal dramatically diminishes the odds of survival.

Butler said young quail will follow their mothers soon after hatching, but if the mother is frightened, she will fly away or try to distract the perceived predator by acting injured. When the threat is gone, the mother returns.

"It's also important to remember that quail are a ground-based bird," Butler said. "They do not fall from nests."

Quail, however, are just one example. All wildlife should be left alone. Removal of pronghorn fawns is a liability. Baby rabbits, often thought to be in distress when seen alone, will most certainly die if removed from the wild.

Avian parents will continue to care for a hatchling that has fallen from a nest. However, if the bird is in immediate danger, it is okay to place them back in the nest or in a nearby tree. Contrary to popular belief, human scent will not concern the parents.

"It's nice to have people so concerned about the welfare of wildlife," Butler said. "We just ask that people do what is best for the animals, and the best thing is to leave them alone.

There are other methods to help: watch your pets and your vehicle speed. Pet dogs and cats negatively impact wildlife, especially in the spring when young are born and vulnerable, while vehicles remain the top killer of wildlife in the nation.

"Young animals have plenty to worry about in the wild," Butler said. "Toss in domestic animals and the problem is compounded. Some of the young received at the office are the result of an attack by a pet."

As for human intervention, it's simply best to let nature run its course.

If you have questions about a situation, you may contact the Game and Fish office at (928) 692-7700.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Saturday, June 15, 2013
Article comment by: Wiley Coyote

The best way to "let nature take its course" is to quit shooting, trapping and poisoning the wildlife. Let us predators manage our own territories and thin out the weak and diseased. Let the trophy animals father stronger offspring and bigger herds. Write off a few livestock and pets if their owners aren't doing their job and looking after them. Those cattle aren't going to live happily ever after anyway.

Posted: Thursday, June 6, 2013
Article comment by: Zen Mocarski

Better ... What you write isn't entirely true. The story states: "Young animals brought to the Game and Fish office at an age at which they can't survive are humanely euthanized." We do not euthanize all animals brought to the office, although it is at the discretion of the Department. If the animal has a reasonable chance for survival then we do our best to get it to a rehabber. Also, the closest rehabbers are in Havasu and they are licensed for certain species, so if whatever animal they are taking in is one they are licensed for, then it is legal. All that written, it remains true that in most cases baby wildlife are best left where they are found.

Posted: Wednesday, June 5, 2013
Article comment by: Better Alternative than Euthanization

I've had many infant wild animals brought to me (quail, rabbits, birds, bats) because the person believed (right or wrong) that it was in peril. Instead of bringing it to the AZ Game and Fish, where it will be euthanize. Take it to a Wildlife Rehabilitator who is trained on how to care for these animals. It is also legal for them to do so.
To find a licensed Rehaber:
or do an easy internet search of your own.

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