Please Leave The Wild Babies Alone
June 1, 2021
The Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) reminds the public to leave baby wildlife alone. As temperatures rise and days grow longer, the newborns of many wildlife species are beginning to explore the world around them.
AZGFD encourages people to resist the urge to help seemingly abandoned animals, including baby birds and young rabbits, as a parent is likely nearby and will return once humans have left the area.
Can Have Negative Consequences
"Picking up or 'rescuing' baby wildlife is often unnecessary and can have negative consequences," said Stacey Sekscienski, wildlife education program manager. "While the intention is well-meaning, the 'rescue' often results in a newborn or juvenile animal being taken from its parents, which are likely just out foraging for food and water.
"This can often leave a parent searching for its young, and wildlife raised by humans is less likely to survive if released back into the wild."
Once they've been removed from the wild, some species of baby animals, such as elk calves or deer fawns, may even have to be euthanized because they cannot be released due to disease concerns. In addition, zoos and other wildlife sanctuaries have limited space to hold them.
Wildlife centers around the state are inundated each year with baby birds, rabbits and other wildlife that were unnecessarily taken from the wild.
Contact A Rehabilitator
The public should contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator if they encounter an animal that is clearly sick or injured with wounds or broken bones, is unresponsive or lethargic, has been attacked by a cat or dog, or there is strong evidence that the mother is dead.
Young wildlife found in a yard or in the field is rarely abandoned. Typically, once the perceived predator (perhaps a dog, cat or person) leaves the area, one or both parents will return and continue to care for the young.
Baby birds are the most common wildlife species encountered by the public and removed from the wild. Additionally, eggs of ground-nesting birds like quail should be left in place when discovered.
"It's reassuring to know our Arizona community is passionate about caring for wild animals, but most often, the best thing anyone can do is just to leave baby wildlife alone," Sekscienski said.
If you encounter a sick, injured, or orphaned wild animal, the webpage link below will help you quickly find a qualified wildlife rehabilitator near you. Before removing what you believe to be an orphaned animal, please take a moment to review the material below:
Picking Up Injured Wildlife
• There is almost never an occasion when you should remove a baby wild animal from its natural environment.
• It is always better to call a wildlife rehabilitator to remove or assess a wild animal.
• If you've already picked up a young animal, put it back exactly where you found it, or under/in a shrub nearby where its mother can find it.
Determining Whether Wildlife Is Injured, Sick, Or Orphaned
• Before you assume an animal is in trouble, wait and watch: young animals are often left alone for hours at a time while their parents gather food.
• If an animal is shivering, obviously injured, or if its parents have been killed, then call a wildlife rehabilitator.
• Sick animals will often be very lethargic and may sneeze, drool, pant, shiver, or sit ruffled.
• Injured animals may limp, drag limbs, or have obvious wounds.
• If the sick or injured animal is a large game animal, such as a deer, javelina, mountain lion, or bear, or a potential danger to handlers, such as a coyote or large bird, call the closest Arizona Game and Fish Department office or Radio Dispatch at 623-236-7201.
I found a bird. Does it need help?
• Birds often fall out of nests.
• Young birds often spend a few days on or near the ground while they are learning to fly but are still being fed by their parents.
• Place a fallen bird in a tree or shrub or on a shaded portion of a roof, out of the way of cats, dogs, and children.
• If you can safely reach the nest, you can put it back. It's a myth that bird parents will reject their young if they smell like people.
• If a baby bird shows obvious signs of illness or injury, call a wildlife rehabilitator.
I found a deer or elk. Does it need help?
• Deer and elk mothers leave their fawns lying alone for the entire day while they feed.
• Orphaned deer and elk that are hand-raised lose their fear of people and become dangerous as they mature, especially the males and they cannot be returned to the wild and often have to be euthanized.
• If you have taken a young deer or elk from the wild, immediately take it back to exactly where you found it. Do not release it in a different location; its mother will not find it.
• If you cannot return it to the wild, call the closest Arizona Game and Fish Department office immediately. After normal business hours call the Department's Radio Dispatch Room at 623 236-7201.
Many rehabilitators are specialists with particular types of animals, others will provide care for all species. Some wildlife rehabilitators, although located in major metropolitan areas, operate statewide. If you need additional assistance you can also contact the nearest Arizona Game and Fish Department regional office, also listed in the link below.
Wildlife Rehabilitators in Arizona
For concerns about young hummingbirds, in or out of nests statewide, call Noreen Geyer-Kordosky at 520 240-2686. Noreen also offers a free PowerPoint program "Hummingbirds: Natural History" for both children (4th-12th grade) and adults (60-90 minute including time for questions) in the Tucson area. To schedule a presentation, email Noreen at firstname.lastname@example.org