Don’t Pick Up Baby Birds and Other Young Wildlife

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You may be tempted to pick up a baby bird or other young wild animal that appears to be on its own, but Arizona Game and Fish Department biologists warn this is not a good idea.

This is the time of year young wildlife can be seen throughout the state, and the department typically receives an increased number of calls and visits from good Samaritans who are trying to do the right thing by “rescuing” baby animals thought to be abandoned.

That can cause more harm than good.

“If you see a baby bird, rabbit, fawn or any young animal on its own, don’t assume it’s orphaned and in need of your help,” says Randy Babb, information and education program manager for the department’s Mesa region. “Usually, the parents are not far away. They may be out gathering food, taking a short break from their young, or you may have scared them away. If you remove the baby, then its odds for survival diminish.”

For example, baby rabbits, if removed from the wild, will almost certainly die. Newborn rabbits require virtually 24-hour care for any hope of survival, but even then the odds are slim.

Young birds on the ground may be learning to fly or may have fallen from a nest. Birds that have fallen from a nest will not be neglected; the parents will continue to care for them. However, if the young birds are in immediate danger, it is OK to place them back in the nest. Contrary to popular belief, human scent will not concern the avian parents.

Moving deer and antelope fawns and elk calves is not only bad for the animal, it is also illegal. Regulations prohibit possessing and moving native deer and elk due to concerns over the potential transmission of chronic wasting disease (CWD) to Arizona’s deer and elk populations. CWD, a wildlife disease fatal to deer and elk, has not yet been found in Arizona but is in several neighboring states.

The best rule of thumb if you see young wildlife on its own is to resist the instinct to help and leave the animal alone. Humans are often the threat that scares away the adult, so the sooner you vacate the area, the quicker the parent will return to care for its young.

“There is almost never an occasion when you should remove a baby wild animal from its natural environment, as that may doom it from being able to survive in the wild in the future” says Babb. “However, on those rare occasions where a young animal is obviously injured, you should call a wildlife rehabilitator who can assess the animal and decide whether to move it.”

The Arizona Game and Fish Department has a list of wildlife rehabilitators and their phone numbers available at the department’s Web site at www.azgfd.gov/urbanwildlife. This section of the department’s Web site also contains details about how to deal with truly injured, sick or orphaned wildlife.

If the injured animal is a large game animal or potential danger to handlers, such as a deer, javelina or coyote, call the closest Arizona Game and Fish Department office or Radio Dispatch at (623) 236-7201.