Understanding Our Native Wildlife

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Early June is the most common time for fawns and elk calves to be born in Rim Country. As newborns they are born frail, wobbly and thin. This often gives people the misconception that they are starving orphans in need of help.

The truth is that they are helpless in the first stages of their lives, as any baby would be, but there is no better provider than Mom to nurture them.

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It's not uncommon this time of year to find baby squirrels and birds lingering beneath trees.

As a wildlife rehabilitator, I will often receive calls this time of year about concerned individuals who have stumbled upon one of these young creatures. The advice I usually give is "leave it alone."

Even though the mother will rarely abandon her young, it is unlikely that you will ever see her. She usually only comes in the late evenings and early mornings to feed her baby. Not wanting to attract predators to her young, 12 hours can easily pass between feedings and nursing may only last a few moments.

A fawn may nurse for up to five months before being completely weaned, but will stay with its mother for up to two years in the wild.

Fortunately orphaned elk calves are often adopted into herds by mature elk.

Even in captivity, it is essential for these animals to be raised with their own kind. Otherwise they become friendly and dependent upon humans, which is a death sentence for these trusting creatures that will someday get the urge to leave the home of their rescuer.

Removing wildlife from their natural environment compromises them tremendously. They have a difficult time adjusting to milk that doesn't come from their mother, and there are no facilities left in Arizona that are allowed to take in wild deer or elk.

The Arizona Game and Fish Department has issued an ordinance to euthanize any of these animals that come into their possession, or into the placement of a rehabilitator. The reason is to prevent Chronic Wasting Disease, or CWD, from entering Arizona.

CWD is a fatal neurological disease that affects elk and deer in many of the states that border our own.

Wildlife authorities are taking precautions to ensure that the transmission of this devastating disease does not affect native game animals, and they are even encouraging hunters to have the game animals they take in tested for CWD.

It's often difficult to know what to do when encountering injured or orphaned wildlife. When in doubt, contact a wildlife rehabilitator for advice. They may investigate the situation, or can at least offer some solid advice.

It's not uncommon this time of year to find baby squirrels and birds lingering beneath trees. If at all possible, try and place the animal back in the nest. Sometimes they just fall out.

Like deer and many other mammals, you may not see the mom come to feed her young.

If it is evident that the animal is in dire need of help, then it is best to place the animal in a dark, warm, quiet environment and contact a wildlife expert immediately.

Because each species has a specialized diet, it is best not to offer the animal food. For example, it's often difficult to know which type of species a bird is, it may be either a seedeater or an insectivore. Giving it the wrong food can gravely affect its growth and development.

Cow's milk can also make most mammals very sick. Wildlife care providers have been trained to create an environment that allows for the compromised animal to be raised healthy, in a simulated habitat similar to their own in the wild and without becoming used to human beings.

For more information on wildlife rescue or CWD, you can visit the Game and Fish Web site at www.azgfd.com.

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