The Sportsman’s Corner: Leave young wildlife alone

  • Fawns are safe when left alone because their camouflaging color help them remain undetected until the parent returns. Photo/MassWildlife

Published: 5/13/2022 9:52:46 AM
Modified: 5/13/2022 9:51:08 AM

Each spring we all need to remember that our intervention in the natural world, particularly involving young wildlife, is almost always a terrible idea. People with good intentions sometimes try to rescue or care for young wildlife. Human involvement can cause a lot of problems for these young creatures. Animals brought into human care end up missing out on learning experiences needed to survive in the wild. Even worse, the animal may die at the hands of someone who doesn’t fully know how to care for the animal.

Newborn or just-hatched wildlife venturing into the world on shaky legs or fragile wings are sometimes discovered by people. Every year, the lives of many young wild creatures (fawns, in particular) are upset by people who want to help. These people take baby wildlife from the wild in a misguided attempt to save them. In fact, these well-meaning people are actually harming the young animals’ chances of becoming normal adults. Remember, young wildlife belong in the wild.

In short, the perils of survival are a natural part of ecology and not all survive. Some people assume that young wildlife they have found has been abandoned by the parents. They believe that the young animals are helpless and need to be saved. In nearly all cases, this is a mistake: the young animals are neither abandoned nor orphaned.

If you want to avoid the problems related to people caring for wildlife, leave them alone! It may be very tempting to help these animals, but most of the time it isn’t necessary. The adults are often nearby for protection and visit their young from time to time. In the rare case you find a young animal with visible injuries or with its dead mother, you can contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator for assistance. A big way to help wildlife is to keep your pets indoors or restrained. This helps wildlife as pets often like to chase and hunt songbirds and other mammals. This also helps your pets to avoid dangers posed by wild animals, other pets, or automobiles.

Leave fawns where they are found. Fawns are safe when left alone because their camouflaging color help them remain undetected until the parent returns. Generally, young mammals are visited by their mother only a few times a day to avoid attracting predators to the young. For example, a nest of bunnies will only be visited by the adult female twice per day to nurse the young. In most cases, it’s best to leave young animals alone. And remember, birds and mammals are protected under the law. It is illegal to take an animal from the wild or keep one as a pet. Remember, if you care, leave them there!

My daughter Jen found the nest of Carolina wren while doing some planting. She left it alone and everyone is happy. This writer observed a tiny red fox kit very close to a house but just moved on, following my own advice. The past week, others have reported to me seeing bear cubs, fawns and hatchling birds. All knew what to do and they avoided contact. It is hard but the best thing for wildlife is to leave it there. Obviously, an injured animal or an extreme situation might call for a trained wildlife rehabilitator. You can contact a MassWildlife District Office to report what you have seen, and they will take whatever steps are needed.

Turkey season delivers

My Massachusetts turkey hunting season began with a lot of interesting time afield but no real opportunity to work a gobbling tom. The first two gobbling birds encountered had to be abandoned because they followed hens to bird feeders instead of coming my way. The mornings were still enjoyable, but I must admit that this writer does feel a little pressure and was beginning to have some self-doubt.

That all changed last week when gobbles rang out as the door of the truck quietly clicked closed about 45 minutes before dawn. In fact, gobbles emanated from three directions! Since one multiple gobble was coming from exactly where my plan was to set up, it was “game on.” The slate call built by my good friend Stu Bristol produced soft clucks and yelps and the boys on the roost heartily responded. They gobbled off the roost for a half hour and then the lower volume made it clear they had flown down. The waiting game ensued. After a long period of silence, the gobbles sounded closer. A different yelp from the Lynch World Champion box call got an immediate gobble it was time to get ready.

What appeared were three jakes, young of the year males silently zeroing in on my location. At 20 yards, they eyed the AvianX jake and hen decoys and after what seemed like an eternity, they moved off. They were not what I was after. Then, three mature gobblers appeared just out of range, gobbling and displaying. They were moving off but a more aggressive yelp from my raspy hen mouth call got one of the toms to “about face” and the others followed and soon all three moved into range. The Federal TSS #7’s did the trick, and the mature tom, that later weighed 20 pounds on the scale at Flagg’s Tackle and sported a nine-inch beard, was tagged and slung over my shoulder before seven a.m. on a beautiful spring morning. Just about perfect!

Mike Roche has written the Sportsman’s Corner since 1984 and has been a Mass. Hunter Education Instructor for over 40 years. He can be reached at

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