4 myths about baby wildlife

Photo credit to Lake Erie Nature & Science Center

Spring is here and soon you will see baby animals in your neighborhood. Lake Erie Nature & Science Center 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 is perfectly normal. Deer do this to protect their young, as the presence of an adult would attract the attention of predators. 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.”

Eastern cottontail rabbits often build their nests in yards and open spaces. If you stumble across one, do not move the baby bunnies because their mother will be unable to find them. She will return at dusk and dawn to feed and groom her babies.

Baby animals are vulnerable, yet resilient. Pets, 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.

MYTH: “Wild animals will abandon their babies if the 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 only covered in 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 fledging that should be left alone as it is in the process of learning critical survival behaviors.

MYTH: “Baby wildlife can receive the same quality of care from humans.”

Baby wildlife will never receive the same quality of care from humans as they would receive from their natural parents. Each species requires a specialized diet, and feeding an animal the wrong food can be harmful to its health. Human care can cause serious damage to the animal and should be seen as a last resort.

If you have questions about baby wildlife this spring, please contact the Center’s wildlife staff before intervening. The Center is temporarily closed due to COVID-19, but its wildlife staff are still available to answer your questions. Please email wildlife@lensc.org or leave a voicemail at 440-871-2900 to connect with an expert.

The nonprofit Lake Erie Nature & Science Center is the only wildlife rehabilitation facility in Cuyahoga County and performs wildlife rehabilitation as a free service to the public. The Center is able to perform wildlife rehabilitation services under permits from the United States Fish & Wildlife Service and the Ohio Division of Wildlife.

Morgan Paskert

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

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Volume 12, Issue 7, Posted 9:43 AM, 04.07.2020