The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission is reminding people to leave young wildlife alone. Human encounters with young animals often increase in the spring, when many species bear young.
Handling, feeding, or moving an animal can harm or ultimately kill the animal, and poses a risk for human health and safety. Also, it is illegal to keep native wildlife as a pet in North Carolina.
“Well-meaning people can do tremendous harm,” said Ann May, the Commission’s extension wildlife biologist. “No matter how cute, how cuddly, or lost or scared it may appear, the best thing to do is avoid any human interaction.”
Many species, such as white-tailed deer, do not constantly stay with their young and only return to feed them. While a fawn might look abandoned and alone, it is often just waiting for the female to return. A fawn is well-equipped to protect itself. By the time it is 5 days old it can outrun a human, and within a few weeks of birth, can escape most predators.
“Spotted and lacking scent, fawns are well camouflaged and usually remain undetected by predators,” May said. “The doe will return to the fawn several times a day to nurse and clean it, staying only a few minutes each time before leaving again to seek food. Taking a fawn from the wild will do more harm than good.”
For other species, the parent may return and become aggressive in an attempt to defend its young.
Feeding animals may seem harmless or even helpful. However, it causes the animal to lose its natural fear of humans and seek more human food. An animal may become aggressive or cause property damage in its search for more human food. Wildlife also can transmit diseases, including rabies and roundworm, to humans.
In those instances where a young animal is actually orphaned, call the Wildlife Resources Commission at 919-707-0050 or click here for the contact information of a local, authorized rehabilitator.