Watch out for young wildlife–and leave it in the wild
It’s spring! And that means most Ohio wild creatures are
nurturing (or will soon be nurturing) young offspring.
Madison County Wildlife Officer Matt Teders sighted nests of
cottontail rabbits and dens of red fox in recent days, prompting
him to issue a seasonal warning against human intervention with
these animal youngsters.
Well-meaning outdoor enthusiasts who see a nest of birds or a
young rabbit, fawn or fox with no adult in sight may assume the
animals are abandoned or orphaned and attempt a rescue. This is
rarely true! Wild animals seldom abandon their young.
However, they do routinely leave their offspring for short
periods to hunt for food. They often hide their young from
predators in fencerows, flower beds or other out-of-the-way places
while searching for the next meal.
Unless there’s something obviously wrong such as an injury or a
nest fallen from a tree, anyone who encounters one of these
wildlife babies should leave it alone. Chances are the parent will
return shortly to feed or move its offspring.
However, injured birds and animals, and those truly orphaned
need the attention of a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. While
intentions may be good, most people lack the skills to raise a
young squirrel, fox or fawn. In addition, it’s illegal to harbor
native Ohio wildlife without a state permit, Teders said.
A list of local rehabilitators and their animal specialties is
available on the Internet at wildohio.com or from a county wildlife
Bryane Roberts, communications manager for the Ohio Wildlife
Center near Dublin, said her agency annually rehabilitates about
5,000 injured and orphaned animals from more than 40 Ohio counties.
Most are young and come into the center’s medical facility in
Grey squirrels, cottontail rabbits, opossums and fox are the
most common springtime “patients.” The wildlife center is not
licensed to care for coyote, deer or bear.
“Care of those orphaned mammals must be referred to county
wildlife officers,” Roberts said.
Information about the center and its work is available at
According to the ODNR Division of Wildlife, homeowners can take
steps to prevent wildlife orphans. Here are a few tips:
• Check for bird nests before cutting trees and clearing brush.
These chores are best done in the fall when nesting season is
• Cap all chimneys, vents and window wells to prevent animals from
nesting in these inviting and sheltered spots.
• Control domestic pets so they don’t harm wildlife.
• Educate children to respect wild animals and their habitats.
Avoid catching or harassing these creatures.
• Keep an eye out for whitetails and other wild animals when
driving – especially at dawn and dusk when many are feeding.