Spring and early summer are great times to get outdoors and explore, however, it is also the time for Missouri wildlife to begin giving birth and raising their young. This time of year, it is very common to encounter newborn wildlife while you are outside, which could even include your neighborhoods and local parks.

When newborn or young wildlife are encountered by people they may appear to be abandoned, however, that is rarely the case.

Generally, when young are left alone, the parents will return if they are not disturbed. Many species of wildlife will leave their young in order to feed and return to collect their young when they are finished. The whitetail deer is a common species encountered in Missouri that follows this behavior.

When whitetail deer are born, they lack the ability to defend themselves and evade predators in the same way mature deer do. After a fawn is born, the mother will leave the fawn bedded down in an area she deems safe while she goes off to feed. Before a mother doe will leave her fawn, she will lick her fawn and remove her scent making the fawn scent-free. The fawn will then lay still in order to remain undetected by predators until its mother’s return.

Many people believe fawns are either abandoned or sick when they are seen laying motionless on their own, however, this is not the case. It simply is their natural behavior and should be left undisturbed.

It is generally the best practice to leave all young wildlife alone when they are encountered. Wildlife should not be removed from the wild and taken home, even if it is an attempt to help them. By removing young wildlife from where they are found, you may be taking them from their parents who are just out of sight and still caring for their young. It also takes extensive knowledge and resources to properly care for wildlife, as well as permits in order to legally possess them.

In fact, wildlife raised in captivity will not be fit to survive on their own. If raised by people, wildlife lack the necessary survival skills they would normally have learned in the wild, and if released, will most likely die.

If you encounter newborn or young wildlife, enjoy the experience and take plenty of pictures, but make sure to leave them where they are. Although they may be cute and furry, they are still wildlife and should be treated as such.

Alexander Walker is the new Clay County conservation agent for the Missouri Department of Conservation.

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