AZ Game and Fish encouraging public to leave baby wildlife alone

Published: Apr. 21, 2016 at 10:02 PM MST|Updated: Apr. 22, 2016 at 11:35 PM MST
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Rabbit kits (Source: AZ Game and Fish)
Rabbit kits (Source: AZ Game and Fish)

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Spring in the desert means rising temperatures, longer days, and more sightings of baby wildlife.

Officials with the Arizona Game and Fish Department are reminding the public that often these babies are not abandoned as many think, but "parked" for the entire day, as mom forages for food and water.

"The bottom line is that 'helping' or 'rescuing' baby wildlife unnecessarily creates an "orphan," and in some cases is inhumane. The mother is often left searching for her young, and baby wildlife raised by humans is less likely to survive when they are released back into the wild," Mike Demlong, wildlife education program manager with Game and Fish, said in a news release. "The department's wildlife rehab center and others around the state are inundated every year with baby birds and rabbits – and even bobcat kittens, bighorn lambs and elk calves – that were never abandoned and should not have been taken from the wild. In essence, these baby animals were kidnapped."

Many baby animals must be euthanized because they cannot be released back into the wild and sanctuaries and zoos often do not have the space to hold them.

Young animals, like rabbits and squirrels that are "found" in backyards are often not abandoned, according to AZ Game and Fish officials. Typically one or both parents return after the perceived threat/predator, such as a person or their pet leaves the area to care for their young.

Baby birds are another example of wildlife that can be helped by being left alone. Unless the bird is partially able to fly, it should be placed back in its nest or as close as possible out of harm's way. Wildlife officials report that contrary to popular belief, "human scent" will not prevent the adult birds from returning to care for their young.

Eggs of quail and other ground-nesting birds should also be left in place when they are found.

"It's reassuring to know our society values wildlife and is passionate about caring for wild animals," Demlong said. "But, people need to do what is best for the baby wildlife and leave them alone even if it's difficult to accept."

Those with questions about a specific case should contact one of the wildlife rehabilitators listed on the department's website at: www.azgfd.gov/urbanwildlife. Or, contact the local Game and Fish office.

Round-the-clock help is a call away on the Tucson Wildlife Center help hotline: 520-290-9453. Staffers there will walk you through what you need to know and do should you encounter wildlife.

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