Young animals picked up seldom survive, pose health risk
PRATT -- Spring and early summer are times when most wildlife species bear their young, and occasionally, people will see a "baby" raccoon, deer, rabbit, or other species out in the open with no adult in sight. Thinking the young animal has been abandoned, well-meaning people often pick up these animals to "save" them. All too often, however, they actually condemn the little one to death, or at best, a life in a cage. In most cases, the mother of the young animal is hidden somewhere out of sight, waiting for the human to leave, and the well-meaning human has just taken a young animal from its parent.

Taking young animals from the wild also presents danger for humans, too. A litter of foxes thought abandoned was once picked up by a family in western Kansas. The children took the foxes to school where one of the foxes bit a student. As a consequence, all the young foxes had to be killed and tested for rabies. If any had tested positive (which they did not), it would have been necessary to inoculate the entire class of children against rabies. As it was, a litter of healthy foxes had to be destroyed.

Many such incidents are reported each year. Raccoons are another favorite "pick-me-up" animal, as are rabbits, bobcats, and birds. Fawns are among the young animals most frequently picked up. In almost every case, the animal dies. The "lucky" ones live their lives in cages at rehabilitation facilities, but seldom are they successfully released back into the wild.

Picking up these young animals -- under any circumstances -- is also against the law. Both the Department of Wildlife and Parks and the Department of Health and Environment have regulations against such activity. Fines can be up to $1,000.

Wild animals are better off left in the wild. They are seldom tamed, even by those who know what they are doing. They cannot legally be inoculated by veterinarians, and few people really know how to care for them. Those who see young animals in the wild this spring or summer should consider themselves lucky. But remember, the mother is most likely hunting or watching nearby. Leave them to the wild world where they were born, and where they belong.