The best way to aid wildlife is to leave it alone
KINGMAN – When you find seemingly abandoned wildlife, what would you do? From the perspective of the Arizona Game and Fish Department, you’d better leave them alone because your otherwise well-intended actions could reduce the animal’s chance for survival.
“We understand people are trying to help, but they could be sentencing some of these animals to death,” said Erin Riddering, a biologist with the department’s Kingman regional office. “The first instinct is to lend a helping hand, but people have to fight that urge.”
Riddering says that young wildlife is rarely abandoned in the nature. When a perceived threat that spooked an animal disappears, the parents will return and continue to care for the young. By removing the young, their odds for survival diminish, Riddering said.
For instance, 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. But, when the threat is gone, the mother returns.
“It’s also important to remember that quail are a ground-based bird,” Riddering said. “They do not fall from nests.”
Quail, however, are not the only wildlife to be left alone. Pronghorn antelope fawns should be left in the wild. Removal from the wild is a liability. And baby rabbits, often thought to be in distress when seen alone, will almost certainly die if removed from the wild. Newborn rabbits require virtually 24-hour care, but even then the odds are slim for survival.
If a bird has fallen from a nest, the parents will continue to care for it. However, if the birds are in immediate danger, it is okay to place them back in the nest or in a nearby tree, Riddering suggested.
Contrary to popular belief, human scent will not concern the parents.
But there’s more the public can do to help than simply leaving critters alone. Two simple methods are watching your pets and your speed, Riddering said.
“If you really want to help, make sure dogs are kept inside or in a fenced yard. When outside the property, dogs should always be on a leash,” he said. “Housecats can also be a problem with birds and small mammals. Maybe the easiest way to help is to slow down when driving in areas abundant with wildlife.”
Abandoned wildlife is rare. Individuals encountering such a situation are encouraged to fight the instinct to help, leave the young alone and vacate the area. Humans are often the perceived threat, and the sooner the area is vacated, the quicker the parents will return.
“It’s nice to have people so concerned about the welfare of wildlife,” Riddering said. “We just ask that people do what is best for the animals, and the best thing is to leave them alone.”
In the case of an obvious injury, people should not handle the wildlife. Instead, contact the department at 692-7700 and describe the situation in detail.