Don’t take those wildlife babies home

May 29, 2015

Pat Maurer

Pat Maurer

Jack was mowing Tuesday morning and startled a newborn fawn who was hidden in the bushes at the edge of the river. The little one ran for its life around the house and across the yard. Luckily we saw later that its mother had come back and found it hiding out in the front yard.

I’ve been seeing Facebook posts about sightings of newborn fawns around the area and thought I should remind everyone not to touch or try to rescue any wildlife babies they come across.

It is that time again, when we see babies along the roads, in the woods and fields. They are so adorable, you just might be tempted to pick one up and bring it home.
Don’t.

Even if the mother doesn’t seem to be around, she probably is watching you. Young animals that appear abandoned are not usually alone. Unless the youngster is obviously injured, or brought home by one of your own pets, they shouldn’t be touched or removed from their natural environment.
The Department of natural Resources wildlife experts cite a variety of problems when people bring wild creatures home in what they consider is an act of mercy.

They can carry a variety of serious diseases like distemper and even rabies. It is also extremely difficult for those animals – deer, raccoons, rabbits – to survive when they are eventually released back into the wild after being raised by humans.

Wild animals just do not make good pets. In many cases, especially if they are endangered or game animals, it is also illegal to bring them home.
If you do find an obviously injured animal, contact your local animal control agency or the DNR office. There are authorized agencies in Michigan that specialize in first aid and rehabilitation services for wild animals.

That reminded me of the time we did “bring some babies home.” I wrote a column about it that bears repeating.
One spring, my brothers, who were out walking, found a raccoon on the side of the road. She had been hit by a car and died. Just off the road in some bushes, they found four tiny babies, orphaned by the accident and crying for their Mama. They brought them home.

We reported the find to the DNR, and got permission to raise the little ones. Believe me they got to be quite a handful before very long.
We had a pen with an old doghouse inside, which became the raccoon babies’ home. Two of the four became quite tame by mid-summer. One was eventually given to the family that published the North Woods Call (remember that newspaper anyone?). The other three we let go later in the summer, as soon as they were old enough to fend for themselves.

One of the little raccoons decided to stick around. I guess he liked us better than his own kind, or maybe he just liked being fed all the time. I named him Otto.

Otto lived with us for several years, and although he was free to come and go as he pleased, you could always find him around the house somewhere.
His antics were really something. He just loved to tease our old, fat, yellow, cocker-mix dog. He would spend an hour creeping up on his belly just to jump on poor old Spike while he was sleeping on the porch. The resulting fight sounded pretty vicious, but neither one ever seemed to get hurt.
Otto was an outside pet after he decided that the baby trout I was raising in a fish bowl was his own personal smorgasbord. Believe it or not the trout lived through that one, and was eventually released back into the AuSable river, scarred up a bit, but still pretty healthy despite the ordeal.

We lived on the edge of a huge wooded area, about five miles from town. It was lonely sometimes for me without other kids around. Otto was a great companion and together we explored all over that area northeast of Roscommon.

Otto just loved my dad, who was a local carpenter. That next summer, Dad was working on a cabin just down the road from our house. Every day Otto went to work too. He was strictly supervisory though. He would perch in a nearby tree and watch Dad work all morning, come down and share his lunch and nap all afternoon, until it was time to head for home.

Since he was strictly an outside pet, Otto made a den of sorts in the attic of our garage. He slept there at times, and hibernated there through two or three winters. Finally one spring, he just disappeared into the woods, coming home after that only occasionally, and finally not at all. By then I was around 16 years old.

A couple of years after Jack and I were married, Mom called one day to say there was an old white faced raccoon in the yard. He came up by the back door and curled up under a tree. He was there nearly a week, eating whatever Mom took out to him. He finally died in his sleep and Dad buried him out by the pen where we had kept those babies so many years before.
I know it was Otto.

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