Spring is not only when flowers bloom and baby animals hatch; it’s also the season when animal lovers become threateningly overprotective of nature’s new creatures.
In a recent reminder issued by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), the public has been asked to take a step back from baby animals, because it seems we can’t stop bringing them home or into rehabilitation centers, even when they’re not in danger or ill.
For instance, the report says that an astonishing 400 to 500 fawns are handed over to state rehabilitation centers each year just in California, and many have no business being there.
Carole Singleton, Public Information Officer at CDFW, tells TakePart, “It’s the little babies that look helpless that people often think are orphaned, but often they are not. They often don’t know that the mother is just out foraging and will back soon, so they feel they need to get that little critter safe.”
The department is asking animal lovers like us—often hikers and landowners—not to move the animals and observe them for a while. If we still believe the creature needs help, then we’re being asked to call the local rehabilitation center to come out and take a look at the situation. We can also call our local Department of Fish and Wildlife office for a rehab list.
In a recent case of extreme Bambi-itis in Rio Linda, California, a truck driver saw a baby deer by the side of the road with its dead mother next to it on the ground. Understandably, the Good Samaritan picked up the fawn, but he took it home and kept it for two years as a pet. Finally, a neighbor reported him through the state’s wildlife crime hotline.
“People need to know you’re not allowed to have wildlife as pets,” Singleton says. “If you do find an injured animal, you can only keep it for 48 hours, and then you have to surrender it to a rehab facility.”
But this isn’t just a Bambi complex; it’s all of Bambi’s friends—birds, squirrels, even skunks.
“There are some animals, like a little squirrel, that doesn't have hair yet,” Singleton says, “that can easily die if you handle it. So, you want to call the rehab facility first and get some guidance about whether it’s safe for you to retrieve the animal yourself—always wearing gloves—or if they should come and retrieve the animal for you.”
When the CDFW confiscated the deer in Rio Linda, the animal was given to the investigations lab to assess how fearful it still was of people and if its reflexes remained intact, components of what is referred to as an animal’s wildness. If the wildness is lost, the animal can never be free again. Luckily, this Bambi was wild enough to go back home to Mother Nature.