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Rochester Hills

April 16, 2014

Leave baby animals be

By Linda Shepard
C & G Staff Writer

ROCHESTER HILLS — Rescuing baby animals that appear abandoned may cause more harm than good this spring, Michigan Humane Society officials say.

“It is one of those things — you can’t blame people who are animal lovers,” said Ryan McTigue, Michigan Humane Society public relations coordinator. “But taking (baby animals) away from their mothers is not the right thing to do.”

McTigue said every spring, well-meaning people bring fawns, baby birds, ducklings, bunnies and young squirrels to the Humane Society facilities on Auburn Road. But a young animal left alone is not necessarily abandoned.

It is normal for many species to leave their young unattended for hours at a time, McTigue said. A doe may leave her fawn for up to eight hours before returning to nurse. Fawns do not carry a scent, so by watching her young from a distance, a doe helps keep her scent from attracting predators to them. 

“The mother thinks it is a safe place,” McTigue said.  “People have good intentions. But a lot of times, animals can’t live without their mothers.”                                                     

Baby birds on the ground may look like they are injured, but are usually gathering the strength to fly, spending a few days on the ground to build up their flight muscles, he said. Baby squirrels sometimes fall from trees, but they are better left alone.

“Sometimes, we have four or five squirrels people bring us,” he said.  

A duck may run in the opposite direction of her ducklings when she feels a threat is near, to have the predator chase her instead of her young. She will return to the young ducks when the threat is gone.

“Before intervening, call us or the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and find out if you should intervene,” McTigue said.

“Those who come across wild baby animals and instinctively want to help them do so out of compassion and kindness,” said Dave Bjarnesen, Michigan Humane Society wildlife technician, in a statement. “However, unless they are at immediate risk, it is usually in the animals’ best interest to not intervene or move them.”

In addition, wild animals can carry diseases that may be transferred to humans.

The Michigan Humane Society is the largest and oldest animal welfare organization in the state, and aims to end companion animal homelessness, and provide service and compassion to animals entrusted to its care, as well as be a leader in promoting humane values.

Those who find an injured wild animal known to be orphaned should contact the local Michigan Department of Natural Resources office at (517) 373-1263.

“Call and get the best options for what you should do,” McTigue said.

For other questions, contact the MHS Wildlife Department between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday-Saturday at (248) 852-7420, ext. 224. For tips on living in harmony with wildlife, visit www.michiganhumane.org/wildlife.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Linda Shepard at lshepard@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1065.