A recent article ("Wild animal babies rarely need us to rescue them" on April 21) contained some erroneous advice that was attributed to The Humane Society of the United States.
It is not true that most wild animal babies are independent and should be left alone. Whether or not they are orphaned depends completely on species, age and circumstance.
For example, some species (such as deer and rabbits) leave their young alone for long periods of time to avoid attracting predators due to the mother's scent. However, other species like raccoons and squirrels rarely leave their young alone. So, seeing the babies by themselves most likely means something has happened to the mother. For opossum babies, it's not uncommon for them to fall off their mother's back when riding around, long before they're self-sufficient. Downy chicks sometimes fall from their nests and need to be put back in order to survive.
This is also the time of year when people trap a lot of "nuisance" wildlife, not realizing that the only reason the wild animals are in or under their houses is because they are denning there with young. The unintended result of trapping is orphaned babies found days later.
This is why the information given out by the HSUS is always careful to not say "leave them alone" unless we're certain that a) the babies would be on their own at that age in nature, or b) that the mother is in the vicinity and will, most likely, retrieve her young. In these cases, we advocate putting the babies in or close to the original nest or den, giving the mother a chance to show herself, and monitoring to ensure that she retrieves her young.
Laura Simon, Field Director, Urban Wildlife Program; The Humane Society of the United States, Woodbridge, Conn.