This is the time of year when young animals are scampering about lawns, roadsides and just about everywhere else in Minnesota, according to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
Birds are falling out of their nests and many types of wild baby animals can be mistaken as abandoned or lost. In reality, the mother is probably not too far away and will soon return.
People should always leave wild baby animals alone unless it can be verified that the mother is dead or the animal is seriously injured, said Carrol Henderson, DNR nongame wildlife program supervisor. The parent is almost always nearby.
Many small animals like rabbits attend to their young just a few minutes a day and intentionally stay away from their young to avoid drawing the attention of predators. If the animals are extremely young and have been removed from the nesting site, return them to the nest as soon as possible, Henderson said.
Birds should be handled the same way. Sometimes nests fill up as the birds grow, and young birds get crowded out before they are ready to leave. These birds will usually do fine because they will be fed by their parents on the ground. Only very young birds without feathers should be picked up and returned to the nest, Henderson said. People should not worry about getting human scent on young birds when placing them back in the nest because birds have a poor sense of smell.
Henderson also said people should contain their dogs and keep cats indoors during this time of year. Curious pets can disturb or harm young and nesting animals, adding to fatalities.
“Many people do not know what to do when they find an injured or orphaned animal,” Henderson said. “The process is very difficult and intense. Rehabbing wildlife can be difficult and complex. Many hand-raised animals are not good candidates for release back into the wild.”
The public should never attempt to raise wild birds or animals themselves, Henderson said. It is against the law for anyone to keep wild animals without proper training and DNR licensing. In captivity, most wild animals are very fragile, traumatize easily and have complex nutritional needs. They can die suddenly.
Natural processes are often difficult to witness, especially when an animal appears to be suffering, Henderson said. Some wildlife species have naturally high mortality rates even when cared for by their parents, but the populations continue to do well despite the losses.