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If you care, leave it there.

racooonSpring and summer are a busy time, not only for people, but also for animals. Visitors to the outdoors often find baby wildlife, seemingly alone or abandoned. While these people undoubtedly mean well, unfortunately their compassion is often misguided.

While wild animal mothers sometimes do fall victim to cars, predators, and other factors, most "abandoned" babies are simply unattended. The wild mothers - and fathers - spend a lot of their time out foraging for food for themselves and for their growing family. At such times, there is no choice but to leave the young unattended.

If you care, leave it there.

Wild animals do not make good pets. Despite their being raised by humans, they still retain some of their natural instincts. Often, people who keep wild animals are bitten or hurt when the animal reaches maturity. Wild animals are meant to be wild, just as domestic animals are meant to be cared for by humans.

It may seem like taking the animal home is the right thing to do, but most of the time it does more harm than good.

fawnThe adults are probably nearby. Does only feed their fawns a few times a day, for just a few minutes each time. While the mother is away eating, the fawn is often resting motionless. These behaviors help prevent attracting unwanted attention to the fawn, especially from predators.

Cottontail rabbits hide their young and come back, sometimes hours later, to care for them.

Baby birds are another target of well-meaning people. Most baby birds found hopping around are old enough to be out of the nest. If the bird is fully feathered, leave it where it was found, or move it out of the way of dogs or cats. The adults will still come feed their young.

robin nestMost birds can't smell, so picking up a baby bird and moving it will not hurt its chances of being cared for by adults.

Unfeathered babies should be put back in the nest, or moved to a safe place where the adults can find it and feed it.
And, sometimes, it is best to let nature take its course.

Photo credits: Raccoon kit and fawn photos courtesy SD Dept. of Tourism; nest photo courtesy Marty DeWitt.