Naturewatch: Leave young livestock, baby birds alone


Several readers have contacted me regarding fawns, either in the yard or nearby woods, and are concerned for their safety. My answer is leave them alone! This is enforced by the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife ( At its website, you will find a several helpful pages, in fact many useful pages regarding our interaction with wildlife.

A synopsis of their Young Wildlife Belongs in the Wild page, follows: Of the tens of thousands of fawns being born across the state, it stands to reason that a few will be discovered. When newborn they instinctually "freeze" upon being approached, and most often are not discovered. During the day, it is not uncommon for these youngsters to be left alone up to eight hours at a time. More often than not, the fawn(s) will be safe if left undisturbed, as their camouflage and lack of scent allows them to remain undetected. Don't bring attention to them. After about eight weeks, they are able to keep up with mom and generally fast enough to outrun predators. On the other hand, a young moose is kept under the watchful eye of an adult cow moose, weighing over 600 pounds, who will defend her young from predators, including us.

One final thought, if, as an example, your dog disrupts a fawn's hiding, you can and must return it to its original location. Don't take it home. Apparently, our scent does not impact the reintroduction of a fawn to its mother, and she will be looking for it.

The one direct quote I will use from the biologist who wrote this information on keeping wildlife wild, is one simple rule when coming upon young wildlife: "LEAVE THEM ALONE!" This doesn't only refer to fawns, but all wildlife -- mammals, game and other birds, turtles, frogs, salamanders, snakes.

I often receive queries about young birds having fallen from a nest, or the nest itself has fallen with youngsters aboard. My advice is always the same, carefully place the baby back into the nest, if you can do so safely. The same for the nest -- try placing it on a branch or in the crook for a branch above where it was found. Parent birds will usually find it and our scent will not stop them from returning to duty.

Some birds, especially robins, leave the nest too soon when living in neighborhoods with children. Every year someone contacts me with a lost baby robin story. It isn't true the fledgling is lost, it just appears so; its mother is nearby. Unless a cat is about to pounce upon it, walk away. Mom will usually handle the situation. To finish, this is the most important time of the year to keep housecats confined to, the house.

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