Commonwealth residents encouraged to "keep wildlife wild"

Most newborn animals don’t need rescue, but a chance to make it on their own, officials say

The arrival of spring and summer brings newborn wildlife to the Commonwealth, and the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (MassWildlife) and the Massachusetts Environmental Police urge people who cross paths with young wildlife to leave the animals alone.  

“While many people see rescuing a young animal as an act of kindness, removing animals from the wild denies them the natural learning experience needed to survive,” said Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Mary Griffin. “By remembering to keep wildlife wild, local citizens can help protect future generations of wildlife.”

“We are encouraging people who come across animals to leave the animalalone,” said Massachusetts Environmental Police Director Col. AaronGross. “When left alone, animals will usually find their way to safeareas or be found by the parent animal.”

Every spring and summer, well-meaning people throughout the Commonwealth rescue young animals found near their homes and places of work. But removing young wildlife from their natural habitat usually does more harm than good. Most people don’t have the knowledge or resources to care for rescued wildlife, and animals often die in their care. Only a licensed wildlife rehabilitator may care for sick or injured wildlife. Animals may also become dependent on humans and unable to survive in the wild, leading them to return to the residence where they can be attacked by domestic animals or hit by cars, according to state wildlife officials. It is common for White-tailed deer (fawns) to be left alone by their parents for long periods of time. MassWildlife urges people who find a white-tailed fawn to leave it alone so its mother can return. 

Taking in young wildlife can also pose a threat to humans. Animals such as young foxes and raccoons can become aggressive and bite people.

“We are encouraging people who come across animals to leave the animal alone,” said Massachusetts Environmental Police Director Col. Aaron Gross. “When left alone, animals will usually find their way to safe areas or be found by the parent animal.”

MassWildlife offers these tips for people who come across young wildlife: 

For a list of wildlife rehabilitators on Cape Cod and in Southeastern Massachusetts, click here.

  • Leave the animal where it was found and stay away.
  • Do not revisit the animal, since this may attract predators or keep adult parents away.
  • Restrain pets.
  • Avoid the nest and den areas of young wildlife.
  • If an animal is injured or found with a dead parent, notify a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. Listings of wildlife rehabilitators by region can be found here.

For more tips on how to live with and enjoy wildlife responsibly click here

Rescuing young wildlife can pose a legal threat as well. Under Massachusetts law, most wild animals are considered protected species. Possessing, transporting or rehabilitating these animals is prohibited without permits.

To report the possession of wildlife, contact the Environmental Police at 800 632 8075.

The Department of Fish and Game (DFG) is responsible for promoting the enjoyment and conservation of the Commonwealth’s natural resources.  DFG carries out this mission through land preservation and wildlife habitat management, management of inland and marine fish and game species, and enforcement of the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act. DFG promotes enjoyment of the Massachusetts environment through outdoor skills workshops, fishing festivals and other educational programs, and by enhancing access to the Commonwealth’s lakes and ponds. The Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (MassWildlife) is responsible for the conservation - including restoration, protection and management - of fish and wildlife resources for the benefit and enjoyment of the public. MassWildlife works to balance the needs of people and wildlife today so that wildlife will be available for everyone's enjoyment today and for future generations.

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