The time of year has arrived when newborn wildlife are quite visible and, occasionally, seen alone.
When parents aren’t seen in the vicinity, an individual’s desire to help can be overpowering. The Arizona Game and Fish Department understands the desire people have to help seemingly abandoned animals, but doing so can be detrimental.
Most often, a seemingly orphaned animal is simply a parental parlor trick in response to a human presence. Essentially, the parents don’t want a potential predator to know there’s a newborn nearby and leave the scene.
However, these animals have not been abandoned and should not be whisked away by well-intentioned individuals.
Such an action can have dire consequences for wildlife.
“The intention is to help, but the result is often a death sentence,” said Erin Butler, game specialist with the Game and Fish Kingman office. “The first instinct is to lend a helping hand, but people have to fight that urge.”
If wildlife is brought to the Game and Fish office at an age where they can’t survive, they are humanely euthanized.
“Abandoned wildlife is uncommon,” Butler explained. “When a perceived threat – such as a human in close proximity – disappears, the parents will return and continue to care for the young. Removal dramatically diminishes their odds for survival.”
Butler said young quail will follow their mothers soon after hatching. If frightened, she will fly away or try to distract the perceived predator by acting injured, but when the threat is gone, the mother returns.
“It’s also important to remember that quail are a ground-based bird,” Butler said. “They do not fall from nests.”
Quail, however, are just one example. All wildlife should be left alone. Removal of pronghorn fawns is a liability and baby rabbits, often thought to be in distress when seen alone, will most certainly die if removed from the wild.
As for other birds that may have fallen from a tree, the parents will continue to care for young on the ground. However, if the bird is in immediate danger, it is okay to place them back in the nest or in a nearby tree. Contrary to popular belief, human scent will not concern the parents.
Butler explained there are better ways to help wildlife.
“Simply watch your pets and vehicle speed,” she said.
Domestic dogs and cats negatively impact wildlife, especially in the spring when young are born and most vulnerable. Vehicle collisions remains the number one killer of vertebrate animals in the nation and keeping a close eye on the speedometer and staying focused while driving can help.
“Young animals have plenty to worry about in the wild,” Butler said. “Toss in domestic animals and the problem is compounded. Some of the young received at the office are the result of an attack by a pet.”
As for human intervention, it’s simply best to let nature run its course.
If you have questions about a situation you may contact the Game and Fish office at (928) 692-7700.