It’s spring – a time when baby animals are commonly seen in the North Country, including Fort Drum’s cantonment area. It’s also a time when people spend more time outdoors enjoying the warmer temperatures and encountering young wildlife.
Everyone is reminded to keep their distance and not disturb wildlife. Many people assume that young wildlife alone are abandoned, helpless and in need of assistance. However, many adult animals will intentionally stay away from their young to avoid attracting predators, but they will return to their babies at regular intervals to feed them. When baby animals are picked up by humans, usually more harm than good comes to the situation.
White-tailed deer fawns provide a good example of how human intervention with young wildlife can be problematic. Most fawns are born during late May and early June. While fawns are able to walk shortly after birth, they spend most of their first several days lying still.
During this period, a fawn is usually left alone by its mother except when nursing. People occasionally find a lone fawn and mistakenly assume it has been orphaned or abandoned. In fact, the presence of humans will cause the mother to delay her next visit to the fawn to nurse. Human scent also can put the fawn at risk by attracting predators to the site.
The best chance for a fawn to survive is to be raised by its mother. Fawns nurse three to four times a day, usually for less than 30 minutes at a time, but otherwise the mother keeps her distance. This helps reduce the chances that she will attract a predator to the fawn. The fawn's white-spotted coat provides camouflage, it has almost no scent, and it typically remains motionless to avoid detection by predators and people.
By the end of its second week, a fawn begins to move about more and spend more time with its mother. It also begins to eat grass and leaves. At about 10 weeks of age, fawns are no longer dependent on milk, although they continue to nurse occasionally into the fall. During August, all deer begin to grow their winter coat, and fawns lose their spots during this process.
Should you find a fawn or other young wildlife, leave it where it is. It may be difficult, but this is the real act of kindness and in nearly all cases that is the best thing to do.
Do not consider young wildlife as possible pets. This is illegal and harmful to the animal. Wild animals do not make good pets; they are not well-suited for life in captivity, and they may carry diseases that can be transmitted to people. Resist the temptation to take them out of the wild. Many animals die when they are interfered with and not fed properly.
If you see a fawn or other newborn wildlife, enjoy your encounter, but for the sake of their well-being, it is important to keep it brief and maintain some distance.
For more information about finding young wildlife see the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation website at http://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/6956.html
If you have questions or want to learn more about how you can safely coexist with wildlife in the cantonment area, call the Fish and Wildlife Management biologists on Fort Drum at 772-9636 or 772-0053.
(Information provided by Fort Drum’s Fish and Wildlife Management Program and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation)