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The Observer paper 12/24/14

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Dick Mason

Staff Writer

It is a timeless message.

Be it deer fawns, elk calves or even young beavers and otters — Keep your hands off.

Each spring people walking in forests throughout Oregon commonly find deer fawns, elk calves, young birds and other animals which appear to be abandoned by their mother. People often cannot resist the temptation to pick the animals up and bring them into an ODFW office.

People doing this are making a major mistake.

"Too many bring the animals in out of the goodness of their heart. But they are actually doing them a disservice,'' said La Grande ODFW biologist Jim Cadwell.

Usually the mother is nearby, even though she may not appear to be. In some cases, the mother may not return for 1 1/2 days, Cadwell said.

"It may or may not be an orphan when you find it," said ODFW Conservation Planner and Wildlife Biologist Holly Michael. "But if you remove any baby animal from the wild, it certainly becomes one, and its chances of survival decrease quickly.

"Our motto is, ‘If you care, leave them there.' "

Officials say that unless the death of the adult animal is witnessed firsthand, no baby animal should be presumed orphaned.

"Baby animals need their parents to teach them important survival skills, like finding food and escaping from predators," Michael said. "Animals raised by people never learn these skills, and are ill-equipped to survive on their own in the wild. They often perish shortly after release."

People are finding fawns and calves more frequently now than any another part of the year, Cadwell said. This is because most calves and fawns are born in the last two weeks of May and the first two weeks of June.

People generally find more fawns in the forest than calves because deer tend to leave their young for longer periods, said Enterprise ODFW biologist Vic Coggins.

Pronghorn antelope are also being born now. No pronghorn fawns have been brought into the La Grande ODFW office. Cadwell believes it may happen because pronghorns are now living in Union County.

People who bring wildlife into the La Grande ODFW office are told to immediately go back to where they picked it up and put it back — if they have to travel a significant distance.

The sooner one gets the animal back to where it was found, the better the chance of it being reunited with its mother, Cadwell said.

Coggins noted that years ago even young beavers and otters were brought to his Enterprise office.

Some have brought young animals directly to their home and have tried to raise them. This is even more harmful because they will grow up without fear of humans.

"Once they are habituated to people they definitely cannot be taken back in the wild again,'' Cadwell said.

Animals raised in a home also pose a threat to humans around them.

"They can strike out as they get older and be a threat to children and pets,'' Cadwell said.

Enterprise ODFW biologist Vic Coggins agrees.

"It ends up in disaster,'' Coggins said.

Besides being a bad idea, bringing wildlife home is illegal. Police can issue citations for possession of wildlife without a permit.

In addition to fawns and calves, many people find apparently abandoned baby birds in the forest. The best thing to do is pick them up and place them somewhere where they are out of reach of predators like house cats, Cadwell said.


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