In springtime, people often find young animals that have been “ orphaned.” Though it may be tempting to “rescue” these animals, it’s actually best to leave them alone.
Young songbirds and deer appear helpless and some folks think they are doing these animals a favor by picking them up and ‘saving’ them, However, the best way to help them is to leave them alone. Usually, these animals have not actually been orphaned, but are waiting on their parent(s) to return. Often, the parent(s) is present, but out of sight to the well-meaning onlooker.
Female deer regularly hide their fawns in high weeds and grass and leave the fawns while feeding in the surrounding area. Although the doe may give birth to two (and, in some cases, three) fawns, they are kept separate (hidden in separate locations) until approximately 1 month of age when they join the doe in her daily travels. This strategy aids in the fawns’ survival. Fawns give off very little scent early in life, and by keeping still and hidden, the probability of surviving predation is much higher than if they were to try running on under-developed legs.
Young songbirds go through a tough period upon leaving the nest. Initially, the chicks appear to have fallen out of the nest, and, in reality, that is exactly what they did—but they did so on purpose! They have “outgrown” the nest and are ready to learn to fly. During the first few days out of the nest, young birds are vulnerable to a host of predators. However, food is generally not a problem because the parent(s) remains nearby and continues to feed them. Once they become fairly proficient flyers (3-4 days), their survival rates increase dramatically.
Survival of all young wildlife is relatively low—many die before reaching one month of age. That is nature. Exposure and predation are primary causes of mortality during this period, but it is important to keep in mind that young foxes, bobcats, hawks, and owls need to eat as well. In addition, it is a violation of Tennessee state law to take animals from the wild and keep them in captivity while trying to “raise” them. Although it may seem cruel, it is best to let nature take its course and leave young wildlife alone.
For more information on wildlife management, contact your county’s UT Extension agent.