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Illinois Outdoors

A fawn stays still in a Menard County woodland.

Leave baby critters alone

June 14, 2008 at 07:33 AM

The fawn was alone, lying curled up on the forest floor in woods overlooking the Sangamon River in Menard County. The mother was nowhere in sight.

It would be unheard of for people to leave a baby unattended somewhere for three strangers on a hike to discover. Maybe that’s why people seem compelled to pick up wild baby birds and other animals. It must be the parental instinct. Human beings just can’t help it.

But the fawn wasn’t really abandoned. It remains motionless simply because being still is its only form of protection.

Does stay away from their fawns to avoid attracting attention - and predators. Fawns have no scent during their first days of life. They stay silent and still so potential danger will walk right on by.

Jane Seitz, executive director of the Illinois Raptor Center in Decatur, says her organization receives up to a dozen calls a day about potentially injured or abandoned wild birds and animals.

“Right now it’s fawns,” she says of the volume of calls. “People are finding them everywhere. They’re behind everybody’s garage and there’s nowhere for them to go.

“People just can’t leave them alone,” she says with a laugh. “They dry them with their towels and spread soap smell all over them.”

Seitz says people need to remember that nature functions just fine on its own. All it takes is a little faith. She likes to quote Jacques Nuzzo, the Raptor Center’s program director, who asks, “When did we lose our faith in nature?”

“They’ve done well all by themselves for thousands of years, so I don’t know why we think that we need to dry them off with towels before it rains again,” says Seitz.

She says mothers have no choice but to stay away from their fawns.

“If the mom stands over the fawn, then the coyotes will know that under every mom is a fawn,” she says. “But you can’t just tell people to leave them alone. You have to tell them why.”

Seitz has plenty of stories about wild animals and birds that were “rescued” unnecessarily.

Her favorite story is the one about the man who found a fawn near a convenience store gas pump. Naturally, he picked it up, put it in the car and drove it to the Raptor Center.

When people bring fawns to Seitz, she asks, “Where did you get it?”

Then she takes it back and puts it in the same spot.

“We took it into the woods (behind the convenience store), and we heard all of this snorting,” she says.

The mother deer was still there, and she wasn’t happy that interlopers had taken her baby.

“Jacques said, ‘Can you run?’ And he grabbed my arm and we took off running.”

Seitz says birds and animals come to the center for a variety of reasons - some of them manmade.

“Barred owls get hit by cars; Cooper’s hawks hit windows as they are chasing birds; and storms blow baby birds out of trees,” she says. “We got a nest of yellow-shafted flickers the other day. It’s been quite a year with these storms.”

Sara Anglum, manager of Wild Birds Unlimited, 1939 S. MacArthur Blvd., says the first bit of advice is to put baby birds back if possible.

“We usually try to get them to put it back in the nest,” she says. “So far this year, the number of calls hasn’t been that high. We usually do get quite a few calls, and I’m surprised we haven’t had more calls due to the storm.”

Anglum says letting nature take its course always is the best option.

“We try to let people know that the best thing for them is their momma,” she says.

Every spring, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources issues an advisory reminding the public to leave wild birds and animals alone.

It is legal to transport injured or orphaned wildlife to a wildlife rehabilitator, but it is not legal for members of the general public to care for the animals themselves.

Seitz says she has a special piece of wisdom for those trying to decide if an animal needs help.

“If you have to chase it, it doesn’t need to be rescued,” she says.

She says people generally mean well and don’t want any creature to die. But understanding how nature really works can be a painful lesson. Seitz gives the example of a pair of robins that nest and then start over after the first clutch is lost to a storm or predator.

Those two robins only need to replace themselves with two baby birds raised to breeding age in their lifetime to keep the population stable. That means many others could be lost - a fact of life and death that people have difficulty accepting.

“If I was God, I’d have made everyone a vegetarian, but that’s not the way it is,” she says. “Nobody asked me, but (nature’s system has) worked fine for a long time.

“We can’t save everything.”

Your CommentsComments :: Terms :: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

If I was God,I’d have made everyone a vegetarian???
WOW!,spoken like a true…...There’s so much wrong with that statement,it’s not even worth it.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 06/15 at 11:24 PM

If I was God,I’d have made everyone a vegetarian???
WOW!,spoken like a true…...There’s so much wrong with that statement,it’s not even worth it

WOW! spoken like a true egotistical blow hard!

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 06/16 at 11:55 AM

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