It’s baby wildlife season in NJ: Don’t move them, don’t touch them
Photo Credit: Paul Spera
Late spring and early summer in New Jersey is known as "baby season." The New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife wants to remind residents that if find a fawn, baby rabbit, fox, bird, raccoon or any other animal just hanging out in your backyard in one spot, don't move it.
Often, the lives of many young animals are disrupted by well-intentioned people attempting to "save" their lives. But you could be doing them more harm than good.
Carole Stanko, Wildlife Management Bureau chief at Division of Fish and Wildlife, said the babies are designed to keep still in one spot so as not to attract predators. Many people misinterpret their stillness as either being sick or injured when that is often not the case.
Leave a fawn alone if found in the yard hidden by an air conditioning unit or a recycling can. Stanko said fawns are born with spots to keep them camouflaged from predators early in life. They also lack a scent so they stay undetected. In the first two or three weeks of life, fawns are not yet strong enough on their legs so they don't follow their moms around, who are probably out grazing.
Stanko said the fawns will stay put in one location but their moms will return from time to time to nurse them. Even though these babies may be in someone's yard for an extended period of time, they will eventually leave with their mothers.
Just like with fawns, young rabbits in a nest don't need to be rescued either. But the mother rabbit will not return as long as a person is standing near the nest site. So just leave them alone and let the mother return on her own to care for the young.
Young birds are sometimes found on the ground near a nest. If this happens, just put the bird carefully back into the nest, according to the NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife website.
When young raccoons are found alone, it is likely they are exploring and their mother is nearby.
What to do if you encounter a baby animal
So what happens if you already picked up a baby wildlife animal? Stanko said put it back where you found it. All those wives' tales about a human's scent being on the baby are not applicable.
"Odds are mom was off in the distance watching you anyway. They're usually not far from their fawns. So if you put it back, she will come back for it," Stanko said.
If a wildlife animal is visibly hurt or sick or maybe the mother is dead in a road nearby and it's clear the baby is abandoned, Stanko said help is needed. Be sure to visit the website at www.njfishandwildlife.com. On there is a list of licensed state wildlife rehabilitators licensed. She said these are the only in the state who are able to take care of wildlife legally.
In the meantime, Stanko if you see wildlife in your yard, just enjoy it.
"That's one of the beauties of New Jersey. We have such varied wildlife in the most densely populated states in the country. It's a wonder to see a fawn or baby fox in your yard. So enjoy it from a distance and respect it as the wild animals as they are," Stanko said.