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Leave baby animals alone, Idaho Fish and Game warns

Anyone who stumbles on a young elk, fawn, or baby bird on its own in the springtime should not assume the creature has been abandoned by its mother.
Credit: IDFG/Randy Poole

BOISE, Idaho — This time of year means a wildlife baby boom in Idaho, and those heading outdoors during the spring or early summer months will at some point likely spot a young animal or bird that appears to have been abandoned. 

For many people, their first instinct is to intervene to "save" the critter. But the Idaho Department of Fish and Game is offering a warning to everyone who comes across a baby animal in the wild: Just leave it alone.

The best thing Idahoans can do for these animals is to walk away without touching or moving them, conservation officers say.

Each Spring, Fish and Game receives calls from well-meaning people who report having "rescued" a baby deer, duckling or another animal they assumed was lost or orphaned by its mother. 

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Animal parents often leave their babies alone, sometimes for an extended period, in order to find food, rest, or divert danger from their offspring. In many cases in which people picked up baby animals to help them, the mother was not far away.

"When it comes to wildlife babies, wildlife mothers know best," the IDFG wrote in a release. 

Credit: IDFG/James Brower

Young deer, pronghorn and elk all instinctively know to remain still and hidden when left alone until their mothers return to feed them. Likewise, baby birds often leave their nest to work on their flying skills. Adult birds continue to feed their chicks until they can survive alone - even if they have fallen out of a nest.

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Human beings should not attempt to raise a found animal on their own, the department says, as the reality of caring for a wild creature is much more difficult than most people expect. In addition, possession of many species taken from the wild is illegal in Idaho.

"In the spring when wildlife baby boom is at its peak, you may have the good fortune to observe a nest of birds or a litter of young mammals with no adult in sight," the department wrote. "Enjoy the sight, but remember it is best to leave young wildlife alone."