WRC: Leave fawns, other young wildlife alone

A WRC photo

A WRC photo

RALEIGH — The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission is reminding people to enjoy wildlife with respect and caution, as encounters with wildlife increase in the spring, when many species bear young.

Handling, feeding or moving wildlife 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 when attempting to ‘rescue’ young animals,” said Ann May, an extension wildlife biologist. “One of the best approaches to protecting young wildlife is to keep pets, especially cats, indoors.”

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 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.

“Fawns are well camouflaged and usually remain undetected by predators because they are spotted and lack scent,” 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 wildlife may seem harmless or even helpful. However, it causes the animal to lose its natural fear of humans and seek more human food, May said. 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. For more information click here.

In instances where a young animal is actually orphaned, call the Wildlife Commission at 1-800-662-7137 or click here for the contact information of a local, authorized wildlife rehabilitator.

Filed in: Latest Headlines, News, Outdoors

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