Orphaned wild animals: almost all are not orphans at all

Wildlife in Saskatchewan often give birth to their young in May and June. We want to remind everyone to view these animals from a distance and not interact with them. Resist the urge to pick them up just because you think that they are abandoned or lost.

Many wildlife species will hide their young so they are not easy prey for predators. Rest assured the mother knows where they are and will return in most cases. Deer fawns are probably the most interfered with animal because the doe can leave the fawn unattended for up to eight hours. This minimizes the scent of the doe on the fawn, which in turn attracts predators like coyotes.

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Rarely is taking a wild animal out of the wild a good idea, and in many cases does not end well for the young animal.            

There are many reasons you should leave them alone. Firstly, you can’t be sure that it is abandoned. Second, you don’t have the training or facilities required to properly raise a young wild animal.

Finally, animals can carry disease and parasites that are transferable to humans. Some of these include rabies, E. coli, tularemia and many others.

The Captive Wildlife Regulations make it an offence to possess and release any of these animals, such as deer, without a valid permit. These permits are given only to trained professionals who have the facilities and education required to properly care for wildlife and eventually release them back into the wild.

As a conservation officer, I have seized fawns from people who have been feeding homogenized milk, grass, oats and a variety of cereals that my children would not even eat. Often, by the time I arrive, the fawn is dehydrated and malnourished.

I have also been called to remove a deer in November after the people have raised it since it was small. As I pull into the driveway, it comes running up to my truck, along with the dog, and with flagging tape around its little antlers.

See, now it is not so cute. It was starting to do damage to the yard due to its size, and getting a bit aggressive because it is experiencing a new sensation called the rut. During the rut, male deer can get dangerous as they are focused on displaying and competing for mates.

With all species of wildlife, the best thing to do is leave them alone. The mother will eventually return, but may not if you are hanging around the area.

If you see a fawn, there are some things to consider before you intervene. When I look at a fawn (from a distance) I take note of whether it is vocal, whether it is covered with flies, whether it is wet (which means it may have been there overnight) or if it is injured. 

The only time that it may be OK to remove a fawn from its mother is when you can clearly see that the mother is dead. Even then, the best thing to do would be to note the fawn’s location and call your local conservation officer or use the TIP line at 1-800-667-7561. The CO will determine the best course of action. 

When we arrive, people sometimes say “Well you’re just going to kill it now.” This is far from the truth. If the animal looks sick, I will take it to my local vet who will provide me with some guidance and we will make a decision together. Other than that, I will make arrangements to get the animal to a qualified animal rehabilitator.

We get many calls on birds. Naked birds or birds with minimal feathers may have been blown out of a nest. If this is the case, pick the bird up and place it back into the nest. Your scent will not make its mother abandon it.

Fledglings are birds with feathers that are just learning to fly. It’s not like a cartoon, where they hop out of the nest and start flying before they hit the ground. They spend as many as five days on the ground hopping around from shrub to shrub. The parents will be in view most of the time.

Now I know my column will not make people ignore any animal in need. Saskatchewan residents and animal lovers are not built that way, so I know that many of you will intervene regardless of my advice. If you are going to do so, a good source of information is the Saskatchewan Wildlife Rehabilitation Society. They have a solid group of trained people who can assist you with most species of wildlife you may encounter. They can be reached on their hotline at 1-306-242-7177.

Here are some conservation questions that have come up recently.

Q: I shot a nice mule deer scoring 197 about six years ago and I want to sell the shoulder mount. The problem is that I do not have the licence. Can I still sell it?

To obtain a Sale of Wildlife permit to sell any big game animal with the antlers intact, you will need to prove to the officer that they were lawfully harvested. The only way of doing this is with a valid licence. In a situation like this, a permit would not be issued unless the antlers were separated from the skull just above or below the burr.

Q: Is it true that it is now an offence to transport your boat on a highway with the drain plug in the hull?

Yes, this is now an offence under the Saskatchewan Fisheries Regulations. The purpose of this new legislation is to prevent the movement of aquatic invasive species. A dry boat is the first step to this goal.

Q: Can I fish in a stocked trout pond when the season is closed?

Yes, angling in stocked trout ponds in Saskatchewan is legal because we do not need to worry about protecting the spawn period as these fish are stocked annually. All you require is your new 2018 Angling licence, as the 2017 angling season is now closed.

Until next week, keep your boat cleaned, drained and dry.

—  Ministry of Environment conservation officer Lindsey Leko has spent more than 26 years as a conservation officer in Saskatchewan. For many years, Officer Leko contributed a column to local papers on a variety of issues related to hunting, fishing, and other resource-related issues. If you have questions, please contact lindsey.leko@gov.sk.ca.


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