By “rescuing” an injured or apparently abandoned baby wild
animal, you may doing the opposite of what you seek to accomplish,
and breaking the law.
This time of year, thousands of animals are born in the wild.
With the spread of suburban areas into their natural habitats,
young animals are increasingly born near humans, who are more apt
to discover them without an adult animal nearby. When this happens,
a few reminders are especially pertinent.
While some baby animals may be orphaned or abandoned, that’s not
Picking up a baby animal that is not orphaned or abandoned is
not only usually unnecessary, it can be bad for the animal. It’s
also illegal if you don’t have the proper permit or take the animal
straight to a licensed wildlife rehabilitator.
Such animals also pose safety and health risks for humans. They
may look helpless, cute and cuddly, but they can bite or scratch
people who attempt to handle them. Some wild animals carry
parasites and infectious diseases, some of which can be transmitted
“The apparent lack of an adult does not mean a young animal is
orphaned,” said Linnea Petercheff, operations staff specialist for
the DNR Division of Fish & Wildlife. “Adults often leave their
young alone, safe in nests or dens while they forage for food, but
rarely do they abandon their young.”
If a bird has fallen out of a nest, it is OK to gently return it to
the nest. The best way to make sure an animal is truly orphaned is
to wait and check it periodically. If you are unsure, place some
strings or sticks across the nest. Place some grass across the top
of a rabbit nest that is found with young in it.
If such items are later disturbed, the mother has probably
returned. In such a situation, leave the young animal alone. The
adult will return after you leave the area. As an example, rabbits
often come to the nest to feed their young only a couple of times a
The best way to make sure that a fawn that appears to be alone
is truly orphaned is to wait and check it periodically. Before
taking any action, remember the following:
-If the fawn is not injured, the mother is likely nearby.
-Leave the fawn alone and its mother will probably come and get it.
Deer can take better care of their young than a human can.
-Human scent on the fawn will not prevent the mother from taking
care of it.
-If you do not see any deer nearby, have someone watch the fawn
without being seen by the mother. In most cases, the mother will
come back and get the fawn after you leave the area.
If you believe the mother has not returned to a nest or a deer
has not come back to feed her fawn, or you know that the mother is
no longer alive, call a licensed wildlife rehabilitator listed at:
Remember, state laws prohibit keeping protected wild animals
without a permit. Most species of wildlife are protected by law and
cannot be kept as a pet. Federal laws also prohibit possession of
migratory birds, including songbirds, raptors and waterfowl. It is
even illegal to treat wild animals for sickness or injury without a
Wild animal rehabilitation permits are issued to qualified
individuals who take in sick, injured, or orphaned wild animals
with the intent of releasing them back into the wild.
If you encounter an injured, truly abandoned or sick wild
animal, do one of the following for assistance:
-Check the DNR website, www.wildlife.in.gov and click on
-Call the DNR Division of Fish & Wildlife in Indianapolis,
-Call your DNR law enforcement district headquarters or regional
headquarters; contact information is at:
-Call a licensed veterinarian for immediate assistance with a sick
or severely injured wild animal.