You’re mowing your lawn when you notice something moving in the grass. You stop the mower and peer over to find it’s a nest of young rabbits, and the mother is nowhere in sight. Fear sets in that they may not make it through the night and you begin to devise a plan to “rescue” them. It’s a mistake that many well-intentioned people make, and unfortunately, it usually results in the premature death of the wildlife being “saved.”
The notion that a young animal found in the wild will die if not given care is wrong. In most cases, the mother is typically feeding nearby, keeping a distant eye on her offspring. Not only are most young found in the wild not abandoned, picking them up is against the law. The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment have regulations against such activity that can result in a fine up to $1,000 or more. In addition to legal repercussions, wild animals can pose a number of health risks, including diseases such as distemper, rabies, Lyme disease, roundworms, tapeworms, mites, and tularemia.
Additionally, if a “rescued” animal were to bite someone, it must be put to death and tested for diseases. Even if they don't bite, the young usually fail to survive in captivity because most people are not equipped to handle wild animals, especially as they mature. On the off chance the animal does survive in captivity, it typically loses instincts that allow it to survive in the wild.
It is important to remember that although young wildlife may be cute, they belong in the wild. Wild animals cannot legally be inoculated by veterinarians, and few people really know how to care for them.
If you should see a young animal in the wild this spring or summer, observe at a distance and consider yourself lucky. But remember, just because they appear alone, that doesn’t mean they are abandoned.
If you really want to help, leave young in the wild where they were born and belong.