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DNR advises leave young wildlife alone

FRENCH CREEK, W.Va. – West Virginia’s fields and forests are full of new life this time of year, but the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (DNR) is urging people to exercise extreme caution and keep a safe distance when young wildlife is encountered.

“Spring provides an excellent opportunity to see all of the fawns, cubs and other young wildlife our great state has to offer,” said Tyler Evans, a wildlife biologist stationed at the West Virginia State Wildlife Center. “But, it is especially important for the public to understand the need to avoid touching or disturbing these animals.”

People who pick up wildlife or get too close greatly increase the chance of harm to themselves and/or the animal. By handling these animals, humans leave behind a scent that may attract a predator. Additionally, handling wildlife has the potential to expose humans to a variety of wildlife-related diseases and parasites, such as rabies, ticks and lice.

While wildlife viewing is an enjoyable and perfectly acceptable activity, DNR personnel recommend doing so from a safe distance and with the aid of binoculars. “This ensures the welfare of the animal, and more importantly, the welfare of the viewer,” Evans said.

Each year, DNR offices around the state receive numerous calls about fawns and other young wildlife being picked up by well-meaning humans. Many people will mistakenly assume a bedded fawn is abandoned when no mother is in sight, but that is rarely the case. Young animals are hidden while adults search for food, and this separation can last for several hours. “This separation should not be mistaken for abandonment,” said Evans.

Hiding the fawn while the doe searches for food is an important survival tactic. A fawn’s coloration, spotted pattern and lack of scent afford protection to this young animal and makes detection difficult for predators. Removing a young animal from its natural environment will almost certainly lead to the death of that animal.

As a final caution, DNR would like to remind wildlife enthusiasts that state law prohibits the possession of wild animals without a permit. The fine for illegal possession of a fawn, bear cub, baby raccoon or any other species taken or possessed during the closed season ranges from $20 to a maximum of $1,000 and may result in up to 100 days in jail.

“We want everyone to enjoy our state’s wildlife,” said Evans. “However, for your safety and the safety of the animal, please remember that young wildlife should always be left undisturbed and given the opportunity to remain wild.”

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