ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel
  • »
  • Pets and Animals»
  • Animal Care & Safety

Baby rabbits, fawns and other baby wildlife should be left alone

Updated on April 21, 2018
Bob Bamberg profile image

Bob has been in the pet supply business and writing about pets, livestock and wildlife in a career that spans three decades.

Baby squirrels are often abandoned, orphaned, killed or injured when we remove trees from our property.  Safety...our own, our property's, and resident wildlife's...is often enhanced by hiring a professional tree service.
Baby squirrels are often abandoned, orphaned, killed or injured when we remove trees from our property. Safety...our own, our property's, and resident wildlife's...is often enhanced by hiring a professional tree service. | Source

Wildlife Agencies Advise Against Intervening

Spring is a time for renewal as trees, shrubs and grasses come back to life after a period of dormancy. We also see increased wildlife activity as animals come out of hibernation or torpor. Spring is the “birthing time” when mammals are born, birds, reptiles and amphibians are hatched, and most insects emerge from cocoons.

Our backyards, neighborhoods, fields & meadows, and woodlands & waterways become “natural history museums” for the mildly curious to the amateur naturalist.It’s also the time when humans can, and will, do harm to wildlife. It may be out of the urge to help a baby animal we believe is in need of help, or it may be out of thoughtless disregard for the animal’s well being in order to satisfy our own curiosity.

Baby rabbits are often removed from the nest by well meaning people who believe they've been abandoned.  Mom only shows up twice a day for feeding.
Baby rabbits are often removed from the nest by well meaning people who believe they've been abandoned. Mom only shows up twice a day for feeding. | Source

Things Usually Aren't What They Appear To Be

Nature has a way of appearing to be careless, negligent or cruel when viewed through the civilized lens that blesses us with the attributes of caution, attentiveness and compassion. But, nature is a step ahead of us and has it all figured out

For instance, you might become aware of a nest of baby rabbits and watch it with a natural curiosity and interest. But, hour after hour goes by without the mother showing up, leaving them alone and vulnerable. Your instinctive response might be to intervene, with the intention of keeping them safe until they’re old enough to fend for themselves.

One of the most dangerous animals found in North America is the cow moose with a calf nearby.
One of the most dangerous animals found in North America is the cow moose with a calf nearby. | Source

Our best intentions, though, can spell trouble in this case. The baby rabbits’ coloring helps them blend in with their surroundings while their lack of scent conceals them from the olfactory abilities of their predators. The mother only visits them twice a day for feedings. While predators have a hard time seeing and smelling the kits, they have no trouble seeing and smelling the mom.

Her presence, instead of protecting them, can actually endanger them. And that’s the way it is with pretty much all animals, with the exception of the moose. The cow will remain with, and aggressively defend, her offspring. And she’s a formidable defender. At over 600 pounds of pure, raw fury she will readily stomp to death anything or anyone she feels is a threat.

Do The Right Thing

The best thing you can do is keep your pets secured so that they can’t approach the babies, let alone harm them, and to keep away yourself. While it would be fun to observe them “up close and personal” or to bring the kids to see them, that wouldn’t be good for the animals.

Human presence could not only scare the mother away and dangerously lengthen the interval between feedings, but it could alert predators to the location of the nest. Or, as we or our pets approach the nest, the babies could be flushed out and into harm's way. You may also frighten the mother enough to make her bolt from relative safety and become vulnerable to predation herself.

Wildlife officials lament the fact that each year well-intentioned people remove baby animals from the wild in the misguided notion that they’re helping. The fact is that such well-intentioned acts tend to have the opposite result.

The Realm of Unintended Consequences

  • Most folks simply don’t have the knowledge, skills and tools to raise wildlife successfully and the animals often succumb despite their best intentions.
  • Those that do survive our intervention have been deprived of the natural learning experiences that sharpen their instincts and teach them the things they need to know in order to survive in the wild.
  • Once released into the wild, their chances of survival are reduced.
  • After experiencing human interaction, they may choose a neighborhood in which to live, rather than their natural habitat.That can subject them to dangers such as attacks from pets or the perils of traffic.
  • Once they mature, many animals become nuisances, others become dangerous to us and our pets.

It’s common to find a baby bird that has fallen from its nest. It's not true that the scent of humans on a baby animal will cause its mother to reject it. The baby bird can, and should, be gently placed in a bush or on the branch of a tree. If it didn’t suffer mortal injuries, the mother can attend to it. She’s probably watching from a safe vantage point but will not attend to her baby as long as people are nearby.

Waterfowl such as swans and ducks bring their offspring with them on forays beyond the nest.
Waterfowl such as swans and ducks bring their offspring with them on forays beyond the nest. | Source

You should check local laws, but here in my home state of Massachusetts, only young wild animals found injured or with their dead mothers can legally be assisted. And even then they must be immediately delivered to a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. Here and in many other states, it is illegal to possess wildlife.Your state’s wildlife agency likely has a list of licensed rehabbers and their contact information.

The best shot a wild animal has of evading enemies, feeding and protecting itself, and successfully raising offspring is when they’re allowed to do it their way. As animal lovers our gut reaction is to step in and take over what we think is a bad situation. But because we're animal lovers, we shouldn't.

Many state environmental agencies have adopted the motto: If You Care, Leave Them There. Words the rest of us should live by.

Do You Intervene and Raise Injured or Orphaned Wild Babies?

See results

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Bob Bamberg profile image
      Author

      Bob Bamberg 3 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Hi Audrey, great to see you. Living in the forest, you probably have many opportunities to do a good deed that, as it turns out, probably isn't a good deed at all. Thanks for stopping by and thanks for the shares.

      Hi moonlake...dislodged baby squirrels are a common event in my neck of the woods, too. I had a customer at my feed and grain store whose son worked for a tree service and they were always knocking squirrels from nests. He'd bring them home and she'd rehab them in a large caged in area she set up in her yard. On rare occasions, such as the death of the mother, the babies would probably perish without intervention. Thanks for stopping by and voting.

      Hello Ron...Your point about people "having permission" to turn away without guilt is a great one. I hadn't thought of that. Knowing that it's best not to take action is probably reassuring to someone who finds what appears to be an orphaned animal and isn't sure what to do. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

    • RonElFran profile image

      Ronald E Franklin 3 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA

      This is great information. I'm sure the urge to help when an animal baby seems to be in trouble can be strong, but as you make clear, it's not wise to intervene. I think an article like this gives people "permission" to turn away without feeling guilty about it.

    • moonlake profile image

      moonlake 3 years ago from America

      We've taken many a baby animal to the wildlife center. We never found them in their nest. Baby squirrels from downed trees, ravens knocked out of their nest by eagles, baby bear we couldn't take to wildlife center had to call for help. Enjoyed your hub and voted up.

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 3 years ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      Hi Bob - I didn't know about the dangers of intervening with our wildlife. I live in the forest where animals make their home so I'm very glad to learn about this.

      Great hub that I'll share with others!

      Audrey

    • Bob Bamberg profile image
      Author

      Bob Bamberg 3 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Hi, Lizzy, great to see you. Between the two of us, we should pretty much solve the "wildlife interference" problem. :) Thanks for the votes, pin and share.

    • DzyMsLizzy profile image

      Liz Elias 3 years ago from Oakley, CA

      Well put! I've been passing along such information for some years,now.

      Voted up, useful, interesting, awesome pinned and shared!

    • Bob Bamberg profile image
      Author

      Bob Bamberg 3 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Thanks for dropping by, peachpurple, glad you enjoyed the hub. I hope many others follow your lead.

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 3 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      Thanks forthe hub, now i won't tpuch them

    • Bob Bamberg profile image
      Author

      Bob Bamberg 4 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      You hit the nail on the head with "an understanding with nature" sharkye11. Most people view nature through a prism of emotion and romance. They will rescue a baby animal based on emotion, and expect it to become a pet based on romance.

      Not many people, outside of rehabbers, get to experience the opportunities you shared with mother nature, and don't realize it takes the discipline and effort that you exerted. It had to be very satisfying. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

    • Sharkye11 profile image

      Jayme Kinsey 4 years ago from Oklahoma

      Really good points in this article. I grew up waaaaaay out in the backwoods, and we certainly had to have an understanding with Nature. Over the years I have rescued and reared many baby animals, but only those that were orphaned or injured. (one skunk ran under a truck and left us with SEVEN potent orphans!)

      They were great experiences, but they took a lot of dedication and work. What most people don't understand is that the majority of those animals will never really be tame, cuddly pets. Still, it is an involved process to wean them away from being dependent on humans before you can return them to the wild. You can't just baby them in the house for several months then let them go!

      Therefore, I agree...if you aren't sure that they are in need of attention, don't offer it. Just watch!

    • Bob Bamberg profile image
      Author

      Bob Bamberg 4 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Thanks, tirelesstraveler, I appreciate the comment. Thanks for stopping by.

    • tirelesstraveler profile image

      Judy Specht 4 years ago from California

      Useful information. Nature takes care of its own far better than we know, Informative and useful hub.

    • Bob Bamberg profile image
      Author

      Bob Bamberg 4 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Hello peachpurple, thanks for stopping by. I appreciate your kind words and votes.

      For years it has been taught by parents and others that the human scent on baby wildlife will cause the mother to reject it. Indeed, many continue to think it's true. It's not, though, but that shouldn't be an "all clear" signal that it's OK to handle baby wildlife.

      Most people find it against their grain to "abandon" a baby animal they think is in peril. But most times, they're simply misreading the situation. Thanks, again, for stopping by and for commenting. Regards, Bob

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 4 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      wonderful article. I thought that our human scent deprive the mother from touching her babies. It is good to know the actual reasons for not touching these cute babies. Thanks for explaining so well. Voted useful

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: "https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr"

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is used to quickly and efficiently deliver files such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisements has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)