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'RESCUING' YOUNG WILDLIFE LEADS TO TRAGEDY

Public cautioned to leave young wildlife alone; mother is almost always nearby

Twenty years ago, the term "Bambi Syndrome" was circulated frequently in the press, and while you don't see the term much these days, the problem still persists: well-meaning Kansans see deer fawns or other wildlife by themselves and assume that they have been abandoned by their mother. In almost all cases, the mother is actually nearby, keeping a hidden eye on her young. If those well-meaning folks decide to "rescue" the young animal, they are usually giving it a death sentence.

Like many other wild animals, the majority of fawns are born in late May and early June. However, some whitetail does younger than one year may breed for the first time in late winter, so many newborn fawns may be seen as late as July or even August. Whitetail does that breed before they are one year old usually give birth to a single fawn. After that, twins are the norm, and triplets are not uncommon. If found alone, these charming young animals are tempting targets for the misinformed wildlife lover.

Many "wildlife kidnapping" incidents are reported each year. Raccoons are another favorite "pick-me-up" animal. So are foxes. Unfortunately, if one of these animals happens to bite someone, it must be put to death and tested for diseases such as rabies. Even if they don't bite, the young usually fail to survive in captivity, and they always lose the instincts that allow them to survive in the wild.

Other cases reported have involved great horned owls, songbirds, opossums, and bobcats.

Picking up these young animals -- under any circumstances -- is against the law. Both the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks and the Department of Health and Environment have regulations against such activity.

Wild animals are better off left in the wild. They are not puppies or kittens and are seldom tamed, even by those who know what they are doing. They cannot legally be inoculated by veterinarians, and few people really know how to care for them. If you see young animals in the wild this spring or summer, consider yourself lucky to have seen them. But remember, their mother is most likely hunting or watching nearby. Leave them in the wild world where they were born and where they belong.

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