Leave young wildlife to mother nature

By Charlie Powell
WSU College of Veterinary Medicine

PULLMAN — First the bad news. Recently, a male white-tailed fawn from Washington was delivered to the WSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital.

The good news? In these situations, there is none. While bunnies, fledgling owlets, squirrels, fawns and others may tug at our heart strings, they don’t usually need our help, according WSU veterinarians.

The advice to the public remains the same each year, leave all young wildlife alone regardless of whether or not you think they are abandoned by their mothers. Do not touch them and do not pick them up. Take a photo if you must, but do not disrupt the natural process in place.

Most young animals do not need human help unless they are obviously injured.

Natural life cycle

Yes, some young will die and that too is part of the natural life cycle.

As sad as it may be, when young of the year do expire, they end up feeding other animals or important microorganisms. The remains may add some fertility to the soil, water and nearby plants, too. The ability to produce an abundance of offspring by some species such as upland game birds and rabbits for example, is an evolutionary adaptation, because many will be eaten by other species.

Seeing a young animal like a fawn alone on the forest floor can become a great concern to some. They put themselves in the position of the young animal and they extend to the animal their feelings of what it would be like to be left alone in the woods. They also often think, there surely must be something wrong if a person can walk right up on them.

Fawns often left temporarily

Actually, fawns are left alone for long periods of time while the doe goes out to feed so she can maintain her milk supply. She always knows right where her fawns are and often can see them and you without revealing her position. Protectively, she conveys to fawns to remain motionless no matter what happens.

A young animal that jumps up and runs from a hungry predator becomes an instant target and soon a meal. And if a doe sees a threat, she usually tries to draw the threat away from the young.

The fawn currently at WSU cannot be returned to the wild after being bottle-fed by humans. It will depart soon to a licensed wildlife rehabilitator and begin its long journey toward a life in a zoo, wildlife park or other facility.

Wildlife are owned by the state in which they are found. Concerned citizens can find more information on their state’s game agency websites.


Charlie Powell is the public information officer for the WSU College of Veterinary Medicine. This story was published in a press release from WSU News on May 25.