Young wildlife should be left alone, say state biologists

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Young wildlife should be left alone, say state biologists
A newborn white-tailed deer rests in a West Virginia woodland. (Photo courtesy W.Va. Dept. of Commerce.)

West Virginia fields and forests teem with young wildlife in spring, and state biologists are reminding residents and visitors that disturbing young wildlife is unsafe, illegal, and often detrimental to the animal's chance of survival.

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Tyler Evans, a wildlife biologist at the near Buckhannon, West Virginia, says it's a blessing to be able to observe young wildlife but zoonotic diseases and other harms can result from interaction.

“Spring provides ample opportunities to observe fawns, bear cubs, and all of the other young wildlife our beautiful state has to offer,” Evans said.

“But you need to understand that touching or disturbing these animals in any way will lead to detrimental outcomes for both the animal and person involved."

By handling wild animals, humans leave behind a scent that may attract a predator, he says.

It also can expose humans to parasites, such as ticks, fleas, and lice. Zoonotic diseases, such as Lyme disease and rabies, are even more dangerous because they can be transmitted from animals to humans.

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Each year, the division's district offices receive many calls about well-meaning people picking up fawns and other young wildlife they believe to be abandoned, Evans says.

For example, many people mistake a bedded fawn with no mother in sight as abandoned. But offspring often are left behind while the adult searches for food. This separation is a survival tactic and can last for several hours.

In the vast majority of these cases, the animal isn't in danger until they are picked up. Removal of a young animal from its natural environment will almost certainly lead to the death of that animal.

State law prohibits the possession of wildlife without a permit. Picking up a young animal in the wild is considered illegal possession and fines range from $20 to $1,000 and up to 100 days in jail.

"We want everyone to enjoy our state's wildlife," Evans said. "However, for your safety and for that of the animal, please remember that young wildlife should always be left undisturbed and given the opportunity to remain wild.”

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