Submitted by ODFW – SALEM, Ore.— Finding a young wild animal alone does not mean that it’s been abandoned or orphaned, so leave them where you find them. The advice you are likely to hear if you pick up or bring young wildlife home is “put it back,” and you might get a warning or citation from Oregon State Police, too.
Removing an animal from the wild is illegal under Oregon wildlife laws. (ORS 497.308 – No person shall remove from its natural habitat or acquire and hold in captivity any live wildlife in violation of the wildlife laws.)
Many wildlife species will leave their young while they forage for food. When people remove them from the wild, young animals miss the chance to learn where to seek cover, what to eat and how to escape from predators and other dangers.
Unfortunately, every year around this time, ODFW offices, licensed wildlife rehabilitators, and even Oregon State Police are flooded with calls from well-intentioned people who picked up a deer fawn, elk calf, fledgling bird learning to fly, or other young animal they assumed was orphaned because it was alone.
Even if they receive care from a wildlife rehabilitator, successfully returning a young animal to the wild is not always possible. Options for long-term placement in wildlife sanctuaries or zoos are limited and animals often must be euthanized since they lack the survival skills to be released back into the wild. Some animals can also become dangerous as they grow into adults and pose a serious threat to human safety.
Here’s how to help instead:
- Keep pets and other domestic animals away from wildlife. Pets will stress wildlife, especially if there are young wildlife or fledgling birds in your yard. Keep dogs on a leash when recreating outside. Keep cats indoors to protect them and our native wildlife.
- If you are certain an animal is orphaned because you observed the parent animal deceased, or you see an animal that is injured, please call ODFW, a licensed wildlife rehabilitator or OSP for advice.
- Don’t feed wildlife. All species of wildlife have a specialized diet that coincides with seasonal changes. Access to human-provided food can negatively impact their health, lead to conflict with humans and in many cases have fatal consequences.
Deer and elk
Oregon’s deer and elk give birth from May through July. It’s natural for mother animals to leave their young alone and hidden for extended periods of time while they go off to feed, so never assume a young animal is orphaned when you see it alone. The mother will return when it’s safe to do so—when people, pets or predators aren’t around. Deer and elk see dogs as a threat to their young and may act aggressively in response to disturbance from a dog.
Harbor seal pups are born in late March through April. Females often leave their pups at haul-outs or along sandy beaches while searching for food. Never pick up or handle a seal pup or any other marine mammal you find at the beach. Beach goers should stay away from resting seals and sea lions and keep dogs away from these animals as well. Marine mammal strandings should be reported to OSP’s hotline at 1-800-452-7888.
Birds nest in the spring, and young birds may be found from late February through early summer. Some baby birds, called fledglings, may become separated from their parents as they learn to fly. These are sometimes thought to be abandoned and brought to wildlife rehabilitators. Unless obviously injured, birds should be left where they are or lifted carefully back onto a branch to help them avoid predators (like outdoor cats), so they have the best chance at survival.
Ducklings and goslings frequently become separated from their mothers due to disturbances from humans or predators. If you spot young waterfowl without a mother, please leave them alone and leave the area so the mother can return.
Detections of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in Oregon continue this year, and it is important to avoid close contact with waterfowl (ducks and geese). Do not feed ducks and geese. Feeding congregates susceptible birds and enables the disease to spread between birds more easily. Also, note that Oregon’s wildlife rehabilitators are not currently accepting sick ducks and geese to protect other avian patients and education birds in their care.
Removing an animal from the wild often does more harm than good. Please respect wildlife, and if you care – leave them there.
For more information on young wildlife visit https://www.dfw.state.or.us/resources/viewing/FAQs.asp
ANGELIKA URSULA DIETRICH, owner and publisher of Wild Horses Thunder and Wild Horses Media Productions, is a professional Photographer, Videographer, Publisher, Writer, Social Media Consultant, and Website Developer.
Angelika’s photography work has been displayed on the front cover of Idaho Magazine (2022), the Nimiipuu Tribal Tribune, Cowboy Lifestyle Network (2021), Cowboys & Indians (2016 & 2018), and in various Oregon and Washington entertainment and vacation publications, Chief Joseph Days Rodeo Program and website (2012-2020), at Art Gallery Festivals, private businesses, as well as for display advertisement for many clients in and out of Wallowa County including the Wallowa County Chieftain (2003-2007). Between 2007 and 2009, Angelika worked in radio as the news and sports director for owners Lee and Carol Lee Perkins at KWVR Radio in Enterprise, Oregon. After the station was sold, she created Wallowa Valley Online, an independent online news magazine publishing and writing news and engaging in photojournalism. After ten years of Wallowa Valley Online, Angelika decided to concentrate on her professional photography, write more human interest stories, and volunteer at the Nez Perce Wallowa Homeland.
Regarding my writing: “As a grandchild of post-war Europe (ethnic ancestry Bohemian/Austrian/German) and former Army spouse, I have lived and visited many places across the globe. Wallowa County, Oregon, has been my home since 2002. I am the daughter of a mom whose country violently vanished post-WWII. Her family was forcefully removed from Bohemia in 1946 when she was only six years young and sent to West Germany in cattle wagons. Her life story has tremendously impacted my own and formed my views on humanity and, at times, the lack thereof.
My formal college education is in the nursing field and psychology, which finds itself in my work as a writer and photographer. I am a humanitarian by heart and soul.” ~Angelika Ursula Dietrich