While this spring's weather has been a little more variable than usual, state Game Commission officials say one thing for certain is the arrival of this year's young wildlife, as well as the almost certainty that Pennsylvanians will encounter young wildlife from their backyards to the mountains.
"It is time for our annual message for Pennsylvanians to leave wildlife alone and in the wild, especially young of the year," said Calvin W. DuBrock, Game Commission Bureau of Wildlife Management director. "Being outdoors in the spring is an enjoyable way to spend time and learn more about nature.
"In the coming days and weeks, it will become common to find young deer, rabbits, birds, raccoons or other wildlife, some of which may appear to be abandoned. Rest assured that in most cases, the young animal is not an orphan or abandoned and the best thing you can do is to leave it alone."
Adult animals often leave their young while they forage for food. Also, wildlife often relies on a natural defensive tactic called the "hider strategy," where young animals will remain motionless and "hide" in surrounding cover while adults draw the attention of potential predators or other intruders away from their young.
"While it may appear as if the adults are abandoning their young, in reality, this is just the animal using its natural instincts to protect its young," DuBrock said. "Also, young animals often have camouflaging color patterns to avoid being detected by predators.
"Wild animals are not meant to be pets, and we must resist our well-meaning and well-intentioned urge to want to care for wildlife. Taking wildlife from its natural settings and into your home may expose or transmit wildlife diseases to people or domestic animals. Wildlife also may carry parasites such as fleas, ticks or lice that you wouldn't want infesting you, your family, your home or your pets."
Each year, people ignore this advice and take wildlife into their homes, then are urged to undergo treatment for possible exposure to various wildlife-borne diseases, such as rabies.
People can get rabies from the saliva of a rabid animal if they are bitten or scratched, or if the saliva gets into the person's eyes, mouth or a fresh wound. The last human rabies fatality in Pennsylvania was a 12?year?old Lycoming County boy who died in 1984.
"Habituating wildlife to humans is a serious concern, because if wildlife loses its natural fear of humans it can pose a public safety risk," said Game Commission Bureau of Wildlife Protection Director Rich Palmer.
"For example, a few years ago, a yearling, six-point buck attacked and severely injured two people. Our investigation revealed that a neighboring family had illegally taken the deer into their home and fed it as a fawn. This family continued to feed the deer right up until the time of the attack," Palmer said.
Wildlife rehabilitators, who are licensed by the Game Commission, are the only ones that are permitted to care for injured or orphaned wildlife for the purposes of eventual release back into the wild.
For those who find wildlife that truly is in need of assistance, a listing of licensed wildlife rehabilitators can be found online at www.pawr.com, the website of the Pennsylvania Association of Wildlife Rehabilitators.
If you are unable to identify a wildlife rehabilitator in your area, contact the Game Commission region office that serves the county in which the animal is found.
Go to the website at www.pgc.state.pa.us, put the cursor over "ABOUT US" in the menu bar in the banner at the top of the page and then click on "Region Information" in the drop-down menu listing.