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Larry Woody: 'Rescuing' baby wildlife is bad idea

Larry Woody, Outdoors Writer • Dec 17, 2015 at 6:41 PM

The tiny fawn, not much bigger than a basketball, is curled into a tight little nose-to-tail ball. Nestled back in the sage grass, its tawny, white-spotted hide provides perfect camouflage.

The mother is nowhere in sight.

A chilly rain is starting to fall.

For some, it's tempting to "rescue" the "abandoned" baby deer.

The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency says that's a terrible idea.

Chances are the fawn is not abandoned. Except when nursing their young, does frequently stay a short distance away from them in order not to attract predators to the baby. (New-born fawns do not have a scent that gives away their presence -- one of nature's protective measures.)

Touching or handling the fawn may cause the doe to desert it.

As for the dad? Contrary to what Walt Disney portrayed, the dad lost all interest after the courtship six months ago.

The best thing a human can do in terms of helping a baby deer is to leave it alone. Once the human intruder leaves, the mother will return.

As for being wet and cold, baby wild animals are designed to withstand such conditions. Most are birthed in the spring when weather is generally mild, and with a nourishing food supply for the nursing doe.

Mother Nature knows what she's doing. She doesn't need assistance from well-meaning but ill-advised humans.

In the event that the fawn is undeniably orphaned -- the doe has been struck by an automobile, for example -- wildlife experts still advise that the baby deer be left alone, and if practical, a ranger or TWRA officer be advised of the situation.

There are certain facilities, such as Waldon's Pond, that treat injured or abandoned wild animals.

If humans really want to help baby wildlife -- especially deer -- they can keep their domestic pets under control. Free-roaming dogs take a heavy toll on deer, particularly fawns, and prowling domestic cats are fierce predators when it comes to smaller animals such as rabbits and birds.

As for keeping wildlife, young or adult, in captivity, it's against the law.

The state regulation against keeping any species of wild creature in captivity serves a two-fold purpose: it protects wildlife against humans, and it protects humans against wildlife.

Wild animals frequently carry diseases and parasites that can be transmitted to humans through bites and scratches, droppings, and even by casual contact such as petting.

Most wildlife does not fare well in captivity, confined in cages or corrals. Often "rescuing" them is a death sentence.

The best favor that can be done for baby wild creatures is to leave them alone.

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