There’s more than one good reason to admire that baby skunk from a distance.
Do yourself a favor — and a favor to other cute wild animals that emerge this spring — by leaving them alone, advise Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department biologists.
Critters that appear to be alone and helpless rarely are, the department posted in a reminder this week.
Humans inclined to “help” often make things worse for the animal, and increase the chances of disease or parasite transmission, it adds.
A baseline caution drives the point home: It’s illegal in Vermont to take wildlife into captivity.
A few of the department’s guidelines that inform that law:
- Young birds on the ground will likely still be fed by their parents — unless people are nearby.
- Young foxes, racoons and skunks develop shyness from humans later in the spring. Their protective elders are almost certainly watching, and can seriously harm human children.
- Large adult mammals (think moose and bear) won’t hesitate to come to the rescue of a youngster, with dire consequences for the human intruder.
- Even heathy-looking mammals can transmit rabies. Raccoons can infect dogs, and occasionally people, with a nasty roundworm.
“Bringing young wildlife into a human environment often results in permanent separation from their mothers and a sad ending for the animal,” wrote John Hall, an information specialist with the department.
Humans can also threaten wildlife through neglect, Hall said: Free-roaming pet dogs and cats pose serious threats to young, vulnerable animals.
Advocates for healthy bird populations should scout trees, shrubs and dead snags for signs of active nesting — and consider holding off with the chain saw until later in the summer, he added.
For information about rabies and wildlife conflicts, or truly orphaned wildlife (for example, when an adult has been hit by a car) call the Vermont Rabies Hotline at (800) 472-2437.
Gawking at wildlife, of course, is a well-established tradition in Vermont. On its website, Fish & Wildlife offers some helpful tips: vtfishandwildlife.com/watch-wildlife.
Contact Joel Banner Baird at 802-660-1843 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @VTgoingUp.
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