“Daddy can I keep him?” There's something about this phrase and its companion phrase, “Mama Can I keep him?” which can melt the heart of any parent. When accompanied by a child's woeful pleading, loving stare and followed up with “he followed me home where I found them all alone under a tree, rock, or bush” will almost certainly assure that him or her whether it be a puppy, kitten, or baby wildlife will find a new home.
For the puppy and the kitten human intervention can make the difference between life or death. But in the case of baby wildlife, it could be their death knell.
Spring is a time of the year when most wild animals give birth to their young. It is a time of the year when the young can find the conditions that are most favorable and food resources most abundant to ensure survival. While some young learn survival from one or both parents. Others normally receive little or no parental care. Within hours, days, and weeks they will venture into the world on shaky legs. On fragile wings, some will not survive. But these early unsteady steps and the flights they take are part of the normal development process and helps young animals learn to take care of themselves.
Before you cave in and allow your child to adopt baby wildlife, it is important for you and your child to know more about wildlife parenting behavior. Wildlife do not draw attention to their young. By hiding their young and dense vegetation they decrease the risk that they are young will be discovered and killed by a predator.
Wild animal parents also will stay away from their young when people are here. Because of this behavior, the most common species to be kidnapped by humans are fawns, rabbits, and fledgling birds.
If you see a rabbit that appears very small but has its eyes open and is hopping around outside the nest, it is likely independent.
Songbirds spend about two weeks in the nest. At about two weeks they will attempt to fly. Disturbing the nest at this time can force them to leave before they are ready. If a young bird is alert, fully feathered, and moving around- the parents are close by.
Deer will give birth to fawns during April and May. The newborn fawns are hidden in tall grass and under bushes. They will lie motionless to avoid attracting predators.
When humans with no knowledge or experience attempt to handle or raise wildlife, these acts of kindness tend to have the opposite results. Many of the animals that are rescued soon die despite human caregivers’ best efforts. Even if they do survive, mishandled wild animals don't learn normal wildlife behavior. After release, some return to places where humans live only to be attacked by domestic animals or be hit by cars.
If you encounter a young wild animal that is obviously injured and orphaned, call the Utah Division of Wildlife for advice and help. The Utah Division of Wildlife resources keeps records of wildlife rehabilitators who are trained volunteers licensed to take care of baby wildlife.
More information at wildawareutah.org.