With the Mountain State’s forests and fields beginning to teem with new life, West Virginia Division of Natural Resources biologists are reminding people that disturbing young wildlife is illegal, unsafe and often detrimental to the animal’s chance of survival.
“Spring provides ample opportunities to observe fawns, bear cubs and all of the other young wildlife our beautiful state has to offer,” said Tyler Evans, a wildlife biologist at the West Virginia State Wildlife Center. “But you need to understand that touching or disturbing these animals in any way will lead to detrimental outcomes for both the animal and person involved.”
By handling wild animals, humans leave behind a scent that may attract a predator. It also can expose humans to parasites, such as ticks, fleas and lice. Zoonotic diseases, such as lyme disease and rabies, are even more dangerous because they can be transmitted from animals to humans.
Wild animals are better off left alone. Each year, DNR district offices receive numerous calls about well-meaning people picking up fawns and other young wildlife they believe to be abandoned. For example, many people mistake a bedded fawn with no mother in sight as abandoned. But offspring often are left behind while the adult searches for food. This separation is a survival tactic and can last for several hours.
In the vast majority of these cases, the animal isn’t in danger until they are picked up. Removal of a young animal from its natural environment will almost certainly lead to the death of that animal.
State law prohibits the possession of wildlife without a permit. Picking up a young animal in the wild is considered illegal possession and fines range from $20 to $1,000 and/or up to 100 days in jail.
“We want everyone to enjoy out state’s wildlife,” Evans said. “However, for your safety and for that of the animal, please remember that young wildlife should always be left undisturbed and given the opportunity to remain wild.”