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Hands Off Baby Wildlife

Not long ago, a man walked into Kentucky Fish and Wildlife headquarters with a soft drink box that chirped. Inside was a duckling so young that it still had its down instead of feathers.

The visitor explained that he had discovered the bird abandoned by its mother at a nearby park. So he “rescued” the duckling by removing it from its home—and any chances of reuniting with its mother.

Baby animals bring out the maternal instincts in many people. But by trying to help an animal that appears orphaned, these Good Samaritans may ultimately be hurting it instead.

Each spring, the Information Center at the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources receives hundreds of calls from people who want to know what to do with the baby animal they’ve carried out of the wild. Some folks erroneously assume that Kentucky Fish and Wildlife adopts these animals.

It may seem harsh, but that bundle of fur may carry disease that could infect other animals. It’s also a way of discouraging people from taking animals from the wild.

Deer fawns are a classic example of why it’s best to leave animals alone. Fawns can’t outrun their predators in their first few weeks of life. For protection, they rely on the spots on their flanks to hide them from danger. If a predator spots them, however, the fawn hunkers down and remains motionless instead of running.

This natural behavior confuses many people. A fawn that doesn’t run away must be hurt or abandoned, they believe. The truth is that the fawn’s mother is probably not far away. A doe will return several times a day to nurse its fawn.

What should you do if you happen upon a fawn? If it’s not in the way, don’t disturb it. If you’re mowing and the fawn is in your path, you can simply pick it up and move it a short distance away. Place it in the shade, if possible, and give its mother a chance to find it.

The worst thing you can do is take a deer home with you and put it inside a fenced yard. Not only is this against the law, but the animal will not learn how to survive in the wild.

In less than a year, that cute 10-pound fawn can exceed 100 pounds. If it’s a male deer, it will grow antlers and become aggressive during the breeding season—even toward the person who bottle-fed it.

This is one of the reasons we urge people to leave baby wildlife alone. Wild animals should remain just that—wild.


Fish for free anywhere in the state on June 6-7. No fishing license is required during these days.

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