Thursday, June 09, 2011

Look But Don’t Touch

(Originally published in the Merritt News)

© By Othmar Vohringer

This is the time of year where most wildlife species give birth or are already raising their young. It’s also the time of year that wildlife rehabilitation centres are inundated with phone calls from people who found “orphaned” wild animals.
As admirable as the caring and compassionate nature of some people is, it is not advisable to pick up young animals. Most baby animals that are “found” each year are by no means orphaned. It is quite common for most animal parents to leave their offspring alone for a long time. Just because you see a lone spotted fawn lying in the high grass all by itself does not mean it is orphaned. Deer for example, leave their fawns for a very long time each day, up to ten and twelve hours, while they are off eating and socializing with other adult deer. By doing so the mother is actively protecting her young. How so? A spotted fawn is perfectly camouflaged from the view of predators and in addition Mother Nature has equipped the fawn with a talent human children sadly lack: they can lay perfectly still without moving a muscle or making a peep for many hours. In addition Mother Nature made it so that the fawns scent glands will not develop until its mother weans it, meaning the fawn has no smell that could be detected by a predator.

If you come across a deer fawn on its own leave it alone, don’t get close to it and don’t attempt to touch it. Deer are very sensitive to the smell of predators and humans and will abandon their fawn if it smells like a human. If you pick a fawn up it will play dead; its breathing will become very shallow and the body will go limp, appearing to be very ill or near death. It is this behaviour that leads many people to thinking that the animal is in distress and needs our help. But this is not the case. It is their normal instinctive reaction to being handled by predators and humans.

With baby animals of a different kind, like bears and cougars, you may be asking for a lot more trouble then you can handle should you attempt to “help” a poor lone teddy bear or cougar kitten. Bear mothers too leave their cubs for several hours each day but unlike deer they never stray to far from their young. Seeing or approaching bear cubs can have deadly consequences for the kind hearted person wanting to help an “orphaned” bear cub. A few years ago a women in California had approached a lone and “distressed” cougar cub. When she picked it up the kitten made a loud whistling sound. In less than a blink of an eye the cougar mother jumped out of the bush nearby and attacked the women, seriously mauling her as a thank you for her kindness. Look, but don’t touch wild baby animals or you may create more harm then good.


This blog post has been brought to you by Othmar Vohringer Outdoors

1 comment:

The Healthy Outdoorsman said...

My aunt was charged by a black bear with cubs in PA not too long. She said the bear was at least 80 yds. away when it charged. Never can be too careful.

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