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April 24, 2012

Mom is often nearby; Drive with care during animal rush hours

EDITOR'S ADVISORY: - An audio public service announcement on leaving wildlife in the wild is available in MP3 format for downloading.

MADISON -- A human mother stays close to protect her infant most hours of a day, and people take comfort in seeing the baby's caretaker present and in action.

Like their human counterparts, wild animal mothers share the dedication to protect, to feed and to care for their babies. But state wildlife officials say people should know that wild animal mothers do this in different ways.

"Unlike humans, one way an animal mom protects her baby is to conceal it and leave it hidden from predators under natural vegetation," said Amanda Cyr, a wildlife biologist with the Department of Natural Resources

The mother returns to feed the babies, but often under the cover of darkness or brush, Cyr said, adding this is something people may not understand because it is so removed from what a human mother does.

"The well-intended person may attempt to rescue or to feed a wild animal baby because, in the human world, we perceive the baby as being afraid, alone and abandoned," Cyr said. "It usually is not. Its mother is following natural behavior instincts to help the babies survive and thrive. Human interventions, while done with good intentions, instead can damage the health and well-being of the baby animal."

Too much human or domestic animal disturbance or activity near a baby animal also could cause the mother to shy away from the area. She also advises to keep a close watch on pets so they don't disturb a nest of baby animals. To prevent a wild animal from making a nest near your home or in the chimney, vent, window well, Cyr suggesting placing caps or covers on those areas. "Seal any unintended opening or hollow," she said.

Cyr also warns feeding a wild animal with human foods can cause more damage to the wild animal because their digestive systems are different. Wild animals require different foods and nutrient levels that cannot be met with human diets.

Born without body scents for a reason; fawn's spots for survival

Fawns are rarely abaondoned.
Photo courtesy of Bob Wright

Some wild animals are born with little body scent. Their protection from predators, Cyr says, is for them to remain motionless and concealed within the environment.

"Their mothers are keeping watch from afar," Cyr said. "The mother returns a couple of times each day to quickly feed the babies. After feeding, the mother will quickly hide them again from the predators."

Cyr says this is the natural behavior of white-tailed deer and fawns.

"Fawns have little scent to attract a predator and their spots help them blend in to the environment," she says. "They move very little in their first weeks while they are alone in a place the mother selected. If you see a fawn lying on the ground by itself, you should leave the fawn where it is and not disrupt the area."

Baby rabbits also are usually alone in their nest during the day when the mother is not there. The baby rabbit's best protection from predators is to remain in their nest which is concealed with grass or vegetation.

"The mother will come back to the nest in the morning and evening to feed the babies," Cyr said.

Don't touch - call for help; Watch for animals on the move dusk and dawn

If you find a baby wild animal, Cyr says the best policy is to leave them alone. "A good option to really help the animal is to call the DNR Call Center (1-888-936-7463, 1-888-WDNRINFo). We can evaluate the situation and determine if you should be connected with a wildlife rehabilitator in your area."

"Animals tend to be on the move during specific times during the day and the hours around dusk and dawn are especially busy," Cyr said. When driving in more rural or woods areas slow down and watch for animals on the move. Just like humans, animals start getting more active when the weather makes a transition into the warmer temperatures.

What is the law on assisting wildlife?

State and federal laws prohibit the possession of live native wild animals without a license or permit from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). A permit from the USFWS is required to possess all native birds protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

If it is absolutely necessary to help a young orphaned wildlife animal that is injured or its mother has been killed, a person may legally have the animal in their possession for up to 24 hours for the purpose of transporting the animal to a licensed wildlife rehabilitator.

To get the name of a wildlife rehabilitator in your area, contact the DNR Call Center (1-888-WDNRINFo / 936-7463) or Bureau of Wildlife Management (608-266-8204). You can also visit the DNR's online directory of licensed wildlife rehabilitators at, search "wildlife rehabilitator."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Amanda Cyr, DNR wildlife biologist - 715-359-5508 or Joanne Haas - 608-267-0798

Last Revised: Tuesday, April 24, 2012

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