Young Wildlife Belong in the Wild

WAITSFIELD VT – We all enjoy watching wildlife, especially at this time of year when young animals are appearing. But, the temptation to pick up young wildlife that seem to be abandoned can do more harm than good, according to the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department.

People often mistakenly assume that young animals they see alone are helpless, lost or in trouble and need rescuing. Taking young wildlife from the wild into a human environment is not a good idea, and is against the law. The results are often permanent separation from their mother and almost always a sad ending for the animal.

Handling wildlife also involves threats to the people involved. Diseases as well as angry mothers can pose significant dangers.

Understanding the behavior of animals in the spring and early summer can help people resist the urge to assist wildlife in ways that may do more harm than good.

•       Deer and moose nurse their young at different times during the day, and their young are often left alone for long periods of time. These animals are not lost. Their mother knows where they are and will return.

•       Young birds on the ground may have left their nest, but their parents will still feed them.

•       Young animals such as fox and raccoon will often follow their parents. The family of a “wandering” animal searching for food is usually nearby but just out of sight to a person happening upon it.

•       Animals that act sick can carry rabies, parasites or other harmful diseases. Do not handle them. Healthy-looking raccoons, foxes, skunks, and bats also may also be carriers of the deadly rabies virus even though they do not show       symptoms.

•       Obey signs that restrict access to wildlife nesting areas, including hiking trails that may be temporarily closed. Many wildlife species will not feed or care for their young when people are close.

•       Keep domestic pets indoors, leashed or fenced in. Dogs and cats kill many baby animals each year.

•       Avoid projects that remove trees, shrubs and dead snags that contain bird and other nests during the spring and summer.

For information about rabies and nuisance wildlife, call the Vermont
Rabies Hotline at 1-800-472-2437. If bitten or in direct contact with a raccoon, fox, skunk, or bat, or a domestic animal that has been in contact with one of these species, call the Vermont Department of Health at 1-800-640-4374.

For the safety of all wildlife taking a wild animal into captivity is illegal. If you find an orphaned animal, however, you can contact the nearest rehabilitator specializing in the species you’ve found. Look under “Wildlife Programs” on Vermont Fish & Wildlife’s website ( to learn about Vermont’s wildlife rehabilitators.

Contact the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department at 1-802-241-3700 if you any questions.

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