The Situation Room – Coming to the ‘rescue’ of wildlife has unintended consquences

Mac Olsen,
Editor, Smoky River Express

It’s a lesson that many children get in school – don’t interact with wildlife, including baby birds and fawns, or their parents will abandon them outright.

But it’s a lesson that some adults don’t take to heart, which can result in unintended consquences for the wildlife in question.

Case in point, a fawn is now living in captivity in Arizona because of the wanton actions of one foolish man.

Last week, the Associated Press in the U.S. had a story about that incident. The story appeared in the National Post on Aug. 9.

The story reads, in part: “A three-day-old baby deer is being sent to a wildlife reserve after somebody thought they were helpign the fawn by removing it from a desert area in Arizona.

“Mike Demlong, Wildlife Education Program Manager for the Arizona Game and Fish Department, says a man found the fawn, thought it was abandoned and took it into a bar to see if anybody wanted to take it home.”

The actions of this person may have seemed humane and understandable. But what he did was condemn an animal that could otherwise have lived and survived in the wild, to a life of depending on humans for its existence.

Even if the mother could be found, there is no chance this fawn could ever be re-united with her because it has been contaminated with human scent.

I have written on this subject before, but it bears worth repeating. It’s absolutely outrageous to come across stories like this. Wildlife are supposed to be just that – wild. Animals like this fawn are supposed to be left alone – they are not to be made into pets or condemned to living in zoos or wildlife reserves/sanctuaries.

Whether in public parks or on private land, all wildlife like deer are to be left alone. You don’t interact with them under any circumstances – and that includes not feeding them.

If, say, I’m out for a Sunday drive or hunting, I do not approach wildlife with the intention of interacting with them. I observe them from a distance and ensure they don’t come to me if they’re curious. If they attempt to approach me, I will warn them off and make them run away.

There are times during the hunting season when I will sit and watch a doe and fawn feeding in a field. But I hide to ensure there’s no close interaction between us.

I also remember a situation in McLennan about four years ago. A cow and calf moose were near the hotel by the tracks and they became separated. I was in the hotel doing an interview when the calf came by calling for its mother. I went outside to get a photo of the animal, but I made no attempt to interact with it.

Granted, there are times when an injured or orphaned animal has to be placed in a wildlife refuge/sanctuary. In 2008, a couple living near Peavine Metis Settlement had to look after an injured owl. That bird suffered a broken wing and could never be released back into the wild. So it was sent to a wildlife sanctuary in southern Alberta early the next year.

Nonetheless, humans still have to be careful that they don’t cause wild animals to be condemned to live in captivity unnecessarily.

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