Please, Don’t Touch the Wildlife

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AUSTIN — With more people enjoying the outdoors this spring season, you may start to notice more wildlife in your backyard, neighborhood or surrounding areas. Species including birds, deer and snakes are active this time of year and their young can be mistaken as abandoned. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) experts caution against lending a helping hand.

Baby birds and deer fawns are most often picked up by well-meaning citizens. However, it is important to realize that many such human-animal encounters are unnecessary and can even be detrimental to the wildlife concerned.

Deer fawning season begins in early to mid-May. A newborn fawn’s mottled coat and mother’s care usually hides them from predators. As fawns mature, they shed these coats for a more adult color, which causes them to catch the eye. A doe may leave her fawn for hours at a time while she is browsing for food. During that time, people may spot a fawn lying alone in tall grass or in a brushy area. Many people interfere with the fawn thinking it has been abandoned by its mother and needs help. This is rarely the case.

Leave all young animals alone unless it is obviously injured. To be sure, spend time observing the wild animal from a distance to make that determination. Staying too close may deter the mother from returning. Interfering to soon may do more harm than good.

The same principals apply to young birds who might be out of their nests but cannot fly. If the bird’s eyes are open, it has feathers and is hopping around, mom and dad are likely nearby. Grounded fledglings will usually be up and flying within a few days.

Various turtle species are also often picked up by well-meaning citizens to assist them in crossing the road. While this is perfectly harmless if it can be done safely, biologists ask that the public not take these animals home with the intention of gaining a new pet. These turtles are wild animals and must remain wild in order to be healthy.

If a wild animal is sick or injured, TPWD encourages citizens to contact a permitted wildlife rehabilitator. Please note that TPWD staff advise the public not to handle or attempt to transport injured, sick or orphaned wildlife. Learn more about what to do upon encountering orphaned or injured wildlife, and how to contact rehabilitators on the TPWD Wildlife Division website.

Find more tips from biologists regarding fawns and baby birds on the TPWD YouTube channel.