OUTDOORS: Hold off on rescuing that wild baby animal

By Michael Carman
Peninsula Daily News

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A FURRY LITTLE family of deer lives in back of me on an undeveloped lot near Lincoln Park.

We've developed a cordial relationship, I give them a nod and a “hey deer” when I'm out barbecuing or reading on the deck in the evenings.

I do the same for my human neighbors.

So far, they've stayed away from my fledgling sweet pea and pumpkin vines in the garden beds and the lettuce and herbs in planters on the deck.

I expect the same from my human neighbors.

Other nearby residents haven't been as lucky, wire wraps around young fruit trees and netting over gardens is as commonplace up here as it is the North Olympic Peninsula's ground zero for city deer, the Uptown Port Townsend neighborhood.

In Port Angeles, the deer appear to be a somewhat pleasant nuisance. In Port Townsend, they are a pest, “rats with hooves” as I, who had a run-in with herd of them, and more serious gardeners can attest.

On occasion, mainly after the lot has been mowed by whomever owns the plot, I'll chip some golf balls around.

While chipping one night, I came upon a fawn that had been left alone by the mother deer.

Now, I knew the score here, Mama was likely nearby and the baby had nothing to worry about.

I left well-enough alone and to not upset the animal, I cut my golf game short.

But what happens when you are out in the actual wild and come across something similar? Say a juvenile seal alone on a beach or a fawn in the woods while hiking?

We've hit that time of year, with ample wild babies coming into contact with well-meaning humans.

The state Department of Wildlife calls it “fawn-napping” and they don't mean cute little deer taking an afternoon siesta.

“They often think they're saving an abandoned baby,” said Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist Patricia Thompson.

“But most of the time they're actually kidnapping a baby out from under the watchful eye of a nearby but unseen mother deer.”

“It's the annual re-run of 'The invasion of the baby snatchers.'”

Thompson, who coordinates Washington's licensed wildlife rehabilitator program, takes calls nearly every day at this time of year from well-intentioned but uninformed people.

She can sometimes talk the caring callers into putting the fawn back where they found it for a potential reunion.

Many times though, Thompson has to contact a licensed rehabilitator trained in wild animal care.

“An uninjured fawn really doesn't need human care,” she said.

“It needs its mother. In the rare case of a truly orphaned fawn, it needs a special diet and treatment, as well as no human contact to eventually be rehabilitated back to the wild.”

Thompson says it's frustrating because the state has been promoting “leave wild babies in the wild” for years, and information has been available for years on Fish and Wildlife's website at tinyurl.com/PDN-WhenNotToRescue.

“Sometimes I think people just can't help themselves,” she said.

“When a wild baby seems helpless or abandoned, you want to help.”

But that help can ultimately be a death sentence for young wild animals, which are often intentionally left alone for hours while their parents gather food.

The state says that one of the few situations in which almost anyone can help wild babies is when very young, un-feathered birds have fallen out of the nest and are on the ground.

If you can find the nest and safely reach it, simply pick up the nestling with a gloved hand and put it back in the nest.

Contrary to popular belief, the parent birds will not reject their young because it's been handled by humans.

Thompson recalled a situation in which a fawn was hung up in a fence, probably while trying to follow its mother.

It was freed by a neighbor who watched it run around by itself for a day, but then witnessed it reunite with its mother to nurse.

In another incident, a fawn brought in to a licensed wildlife rehabilitator was returned to the pick-up spot within 24 hours.

When released by the rehabilitator, the fawn cried out and within minutes a doe appeared, stomping its feet at the human, who quickly exited so the two could reunite.

Luckily, Jefferson and Clallam counties have trained wildlife rehabilitators available to help.

Jaye Moore operates the Northwest Raptor Center in Sequim and is available at 360-681-2283 or 360-460-0178 in emergencies.

Donations for the center's vital operations can be made at nwraptorcenter.com/donate.

Blue Mountain Animal Clinic veterinarian Sharon Jensen is available at 360-457-3842 or 360-681-8772 in emergencies.

In Jefferson County, raptors and small birds are handled by Cynthia Daily of Discovery Bay Raptor Rehabilitation. Phone 360-379-0802 or in emergencies or at night, phone 360-643-0056.

Center Valley Animal Rescue in Quilcene works with mammals only, no birds. Phone 360-765-0598.

WOW weekend

Registration is now open for Washington Outdoor Women's (WOW) annual fall workshop, dedicated to bringing together women and girls (ages 9-12) for a weekend of fishing, hunting and outdoor-skills education.

Volunteer instructors for the workshop include four biologists from the Department of Fish and Wildlife, who will teach outdoor skills ranging from wildlife identification and freshwater fishing to map and compass reading.

This year's workshop is scheduled Sept.12-14 at Camp Waskowitz in North Bend.

For information about registration, visit www.washingtonoutdoorwomen.org or phone director Ronni McGlenn at 425-455-1986.

Washington Outdoor Women is a nonprofit program dedicated to teaching women and girls outdoor skills and natural resource stewardship. The organization is an educational outreach program of the Washington Wildlife Federation.

Youth rowing clinics

The Olympic Peninsula Rowing Association is offering summer rowing clinics for youth ages 12 and up.

The clinics are held at 1431 Ediz Hook Road, from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Monday through Friday.

The cost is $50 for each week-long clinic and they will be held throughout the summer.

For more information email John Halberg at or phone 360-460-6525.


Outdoors columnist Michael Carman appears here Thursdays and Fridays. He can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5152 or at mcarman@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: June 25. 2014 6:15PM
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