Leave baby wild animals alone, mom’s probably close by

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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 […]

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.

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Cute — and its mother is probably nearby: A young skunk ventures across a lawn in this undated photograph by John Hall.

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.

Adorable, from a distance. Racoons (and other wildlife) are ill-suited to domestic life with people. Aside from rabies, they can pass along a nasty roundworm parasite.

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.

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