4 common myths about baby wildlife

Eastern cottontail rabbits often nest in open spaces. Baby bunnies should not be moved, or their mother will be unable to find them. Photo courtesy Lake Erie Nature & Science Center

Spring is here, meaning wildlife reproduction will soon be at its peak. At Lake Erie Nature & Science Center, Director of Wildlife Amy LeMonds and her staff are preparing for their busiest season of the year. Before the Center begins to receive an increase in animal intakes and phone calls from concerned residents, their expert wildlife staff is here to debunk four of the most common myths related to baby wildlife.

MYTH: "Mothers often abandon baby wildlife in nature."
Baby wildlife is rarely abandoned in nature. Mothers will often leave their young unattended for hours for a variety of reasons. For instance, a fawn lying quietly by itself with no mother in sight is perfectly normal. Deer do this to protect their young, as the presence of an adult would attract the attention of predators.

Similarly, raccoons and squirrels will frequently retrieve their babies when they end up out of the nest too early. They often maintain more than one nest or den site and will move their babies as needed.

MYTH: "Baby wildlife must be protected from natural dangers."
Baby animals do not need to be protected from the natural dangers in their lives. Children, predators and automobiles are all a natural part of their urban and suburban environments. Baby wildlife must grow up among these circumstances in order to learn how to successfully co-exist with them. Growing up in the wild is dangerous, but removing animals from their parents can be equally as detrimental to their survival.

Eastern cottontail rabbits often build their nesting sites in "questionable" locations such as yards and open spaces. If you stumble across one of their nesting sites, do not move the baby bunnies as their mother will be unable to find them.

MYTH: "Wild animals will abandon their babies if they smell the scent of humans."
Wild animals will not abandon their babies due to the scent of humans. In fact, most birds have little sense of smell. While mammals have a strong sense of smell, human scent is not nearly enough of a danger signal to cause mothers to abandon their hormonal and maternal behaviors.

A baby bird with skin still visible or covered in only downy feathers should be placed back in the nest or in an artificial nest. If fully feathered but unable to fly, the bird is a fledgling that should be left alone as it is in the process of learning critical survival behaviors.

MYTH: "Humans can provide baby wildlife the same quality of care as their natural parents."
Baby animals will never receive the same quality of care from humans as they would receive from their natural parents. Human care, to some extent, is always damaging to the animal. For this reason, human intervention should be the last resort.

If you have found baby wildlife and are wondering if it needs help, please call Lake Erie Nature & Science Center at 440-471-8357. The Center's team is always happy to answer questions and provide resources to the community.

Morgan Paskert

Morgan Paskert is on staff at Lake Erie Nature & Science Center.

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Volume 9, Issue 9, Posted 9:59 AM, 05.02.2017