Look, but don’t touch

John Brannen
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Human intervention in young wildlife can do ‘more harm than good,’ says DNR

With the cold of winter now behind us, spring has sprung in Pictou County and with it, new wildlife in the forests and fields. It also marks the return of humans to these places after being bundled up all winter.


If you see young wild animals in the woods this spring, leave them where they are, says the federation of anglers and hunters.

experts are advising those who want to reconnect with nature through hunting or hiking to look, but don’t touch the young birds and fawns.

“It’s easy to stumble a baby fox or fawn and they may even appear to be abandoned,” said Jim MacNaughton, a forest technician with the Department of Natural Resources. “Sometimes, the mom just has to take a break so they ensure their young are well camouflaged. The surroundings are like a babysitter.”

During the spring season, many baby birds are taken away from the nest people believe they are hurt or abandoned. After leaving their nest, fledglings often live on the ground for days or weeks between the months of April and June

The baby birds can look helpless or injured, or they may also look abandoned. What makes the situation seem direr is that the birds’ parents will not approach the baby if humans are near.

Typically fledglings remain close to their parents for a short period. During this time the babies must learn to survive on their own. Humans can have a positive role to play however.

“It’s helpful for these little birds if cat owners consider limiting the hours cats are allowed outside,” said Veronica Sherwood, chair of the Bird Conservation Committee of the Ecology Action Centre. “We are in the middle of the fledgling season right now, and keeping our cats inside will help both adult and juvenile song birds, as well as keeping cats safe.”

To keep up with the food demands of nestlings, parents continuously forage for food for their young. This is an extremely dangerous time for both the adult and young birds because the increased activity and begging cries of nestlings can attract cats and other predators.

“Small foxes and hares are a common sight sadly, because the family cat or dog has brought them home,” said MacNaughton. “When it comes to being a responsible pet owner its got to keep them on a short leash at this time.”

If however, the fledgling has feathers and an obvious injury place baby in clean cardboard box with loose lid to allow airflow and contact your local wildlife centre. Please arrange care in a proper facility as soon as possible and do not attempt to care for baby birds yourself.

Similarly, the Nova Scotia Federation of Anglers and Hunters is asking all people who go into the woods of Nova Scotia this spring to be respectful of nature’s laws and leave wild baby animals alone.

In a news release, the federation asked that people who take dogs into the woods keep them on a leash as encounters with young wildlife may have a negative outcome.

“It’s human nature to want to help, but the reality is that you’re doing more damage,’ said MacNaughton. “They get bigger and remember, it’s a wild animal and it should be in the wild.”

Deer fawns found laying in tall grass or among young fir trees have not been abandoned by their mothers, as some may think.

“Doe often leave their fawns in a protected area while they feed or lead predators away,” said Tony Rodgers, executive director of the Nova Scotia Federation of Anglers and Hunters. “By picking that fawn up, you may have set in motion a series of events that will be detrimental to that individual animal and perhaps the whole deer herd.”

Rodgers noted that after 24 hours you wish to check to see if its still there you may do so, but his bet is that the fawn has gone with its mother.

"It's important to all of us to care about nature but removing young from its natural habitat to be housed in a barn or garage for a week before deciding its too much to look after is a crime against nature.”

And speaking of crimes, it's illegal in Nova Scotia to keep in captivity any wildlife, native or exotic, without a permit or license.

Call your local Department of Natural Resources office for advice before moving any deer or other animal away from its natural protection. For more information on birds, call Veronica Sherwood at the Ecology Action Centre: 454-2555.



On Twitter: @NGNewsJohn 

Organizations: Department of Natural Resources, Nova Scotia Federation of Anglers, Bird Conservation Committee of the Ecology Action Centre

Geographic location: Nova Scotia

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Recent comments

  • Tax Tired
    May 23, 2014 - 07:07

    Is this the kind of interference that they are referring to? http://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/deer-named-bambi-raised-by-hutterites-shot-by-wildlife-officers-1.1147960