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Really care? Leave them there!

It’s the time of year when lots of baby wild animals and birds are now on the outdoor scene in Nebraska. Interactions with these cute animals at a distance can be fun and educational.


However, please remember that it is illegal and unsafe (for both you and the little critter) to harbor or possess young wildlife. It’s also inhumane to remove young wildlife from its natural surroundings/habitat (including your own backyard)! What’s interesting is that, although you may not see it, there’s a parent animal or bird nearby, most likely a mom!

White-tailed and mule deer does, for example, will typically leave their fawn(s) for hours at a time, returning only to nurse them. Fawns are often discovered lying quietly hidden in tall grass, brush or behind large rocks or trees.


During the first few weeks of life, fawns do not try to flee from predators. Instead, they rely on remaining undetected through camouflage and stillness. During these times fawns are learning critical survival skills from their mothers. Well-meaning folks sometimes pick up these fawns, thinking that they have been abandoned by their mothers and need help. You now know, this is not the case!

Another common question we receive at our Game and Parks Commission Office in Omaha, NE this time of the year: Are baby birds (nestlings or fledglings) cared for if they’re on the ground?  The answer is yes! While they are on the ground, the young birds are tended to and protected by their parents as well as taught vital life skills (finding food, identifying predators and flying), if you have left them alone and undisturbed, that is!


Let’s take mother rabbit as another example. A mother cottontail rabbit will only tend to her nest a couple of times a day for a few minutes, usually at night, and spends the rest of the day away from it. She does this in order to prevent drawing predators to the nest and to forage for herself. If you find a nest that looks undisturbed and the mother is nowhere in sight, that is her plan. She will be back within 24-48 hours maximum to check on and feed her babies. Additionally, baby wild rabbits can survive on their own at a surprisingly young age.


So you see, these animals are cared for, plus wildlife is much more adapted for survival than most of us realize. So while you think it’s appropriate to help a young wild animal or bird, be aware that you cause more harm than good when you stop to try to lend assistance. If you really care, you’ll leave them there!

About greg wagner

A native of Gretna, NE, a graduate of Gretna High School and Bellevue University, Greg Wagner currently serves as the Communications and Marketing Specialist and Manager for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission's Service Center in Omaha. On a weekly basis, Wagner can be heard on a number of radio stations, seen on local television in Omaha, and on social media channels, creatively conveying natural resource conservation messages as well as promoting outdoor activities and destinations in Nebraska. Wagner, whose career at Game and Parks began in 1979, walks, talks, lives, breathes and blogs about Nebraska’s outdoors. He grew up in rural Gretna, building forts in the woods, hunting, fishing, collecting leaves, and generally thriving on constant outdoor activity. One of the primary goals of his blog is to get people, especially young ones, to have fun and spend time outside!

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