DEC: Leave infant wild animals alone

Denielle Cazzolla | The Daily StarA fawn lies in the grass in the town of Colchester in this May 2018 photo.

As more people are staying home or enjoying outdoor recreational activities amid the coronavirus pandemic, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation advised New Yorkers to refrain from touching newborn fawns or other young wildlife.

“At this time of year, people are more likely to see a young rabbit or a recently fledged bird in their yard and mistakenly think it needs help to survive,” DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said. “I encourage you to enjoy encounters with wildlife from afar and avoid approaching or touching the animal. Remember, if you care, leave it there.”

During the spring months, animal sightings and encounters are common, but human contact with wildlife can carry unintended consequences detrimental to the creatures people intend to help, according to Oneonta resident Rick Brockway, who writes an outdoor sports column for The Daily Star.

“People want to be do-gooders, but nature will survive without our help,” Brockway said. “We’re supposed to leave wildlife alone.”

While white-tailed fawns, which are born during late May and early June, are often found alone lying still in tall grass, leaf litter or even relatively unconcealed, it is rare that they have been abandoned, Brockway said.

“Animals don’t stay with their young all the time,” Brockway said. “Fawns stay in hiding until they’re old enough to run as fast as Mom.”

Fawns are born without scent, he said, and their protective coloration and ability to remain motionless help them avoid detection by predators and people, Brockway said.

Fawns nurse three to four times a day, usually for less than 30 minutes at a time, but if human presence is detected by the doe, it may delay its next visit.

“Let nature take care of its own,” Brockway said. “They can do it better than we can.”

Other wildlife commonly spotted in the region are red foxes, coyotes, bears and wild turkeys, Brockway said, each with their own means of protecting their young.

Sightings are common even in residential areas because local species have adapted to human development, Brockway said, a trend that is gaining increasing momentum as farms in the area go out of business or are abandoned.

“A farm not in use will turn into a brush lot, and eventually that will turn into a forest,” Brockway said. “We’ll start to see more and more of them. These animals have survived all of our encroachment on their habitats and they’ll probably be here after we’re gone.”

Under state law, keeping wildlife in captivity is illegal and can be harmful. Wild animals are not well-suited for life in captivity and may carry diseases that can be transferred to humans, according to the DEC.

Anyone who observes wildlife appearing to be sick or behaving abnormally should contact their DEC regional office. For Delaware, Otsego and Schoharie counties, contact Region Four at 518-357-2068. For Chenango County, contact Region Seven at 315-426-7403.

For more information, visit dec.ny.gov

Sarah Eames, staff writer, can be reached at seames@thedailystar.com or 607-441-7213. Follow her @DS_SarahE on Twitter.

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