Leave wildlife alone

Each spring, MassWildlife issues an alert reminding us to leave wildlife alone. Well-meant acts of kindness tend to have the opposite result. Instead of being left to learn their place in the world, young wildlife removed from the wild are denied important natural learning experiences which help them survive on their own.

Most people quickly find that they can’t really care for young wildlife, and many of the animals soon die in the hands of well-meaning people. Young wildlife that does survive human “assistance” misses experiences that teach them to fend for themselves. If these animals are released back into the wild, their chances of survival are reduced. Often, the care given to young wildlife results in some attachment to humans and the animals may return to places where people live, only to be attacked by domestic animals or hit by cars. Some animals become nuisances and people have even been injured by once-tamed wildlife.

Fawns are safest when left alone because their camouflaging color helps them remain undetected until the doe returns. If sympathetic people repeatedly visit a fawn, it can prolong the separation from the doe and delay important feeding. Unlike deer, newborn moose calves remain in close proximity to their mothers who, in contrast to a white-tailed doe, will actively defend calves against danger. An adult cow moose weighing over 600 pounds will chase, kick, stomp potential predators, people included.

Only when young wildlife are found injured or with their dead mother may the young be assisted, but must then be delivered immediately to a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. Due to the difficulty in properly caring for them there are no rehabilitators licensed to care of fawns. It is illegal to possess most wildlife in Massachusetts.

Message poorly timed you say, for we are past the spring fawning season. Please let me relate asituation that has recently come to light. It is a true Berkshire story but I have been asked to keep the names and locations anonymous. Let us call the person Parker who lives in Ripton.

Parker was recently visited by a year old spike horned buck which walked up to him in his driveway. He appeared tame and let Parker scratch his head and neck. He picked up a handful of grass and the deer ate right out of his hands. He later followed him right into his garage. He has no fear of humans whatsoever and is hanging around his property, frequently laying down on his lawn. It must have been a rescued fawn from last year and has adopted a close attachment with humans. In any event, Parker enjoyed the visits from this deer and grew fond of it himself.

Things were fine up until a few weeks ago. Parker became concerned when two game wardens (EPO’s) visited his place twice to track what is happening with the deer. They want to make sure it doesn’t turn into a public safety issue. Parker is afraid they will put it down. According to Andrew Madden, DFW Western District Manager, they are not at that stage right now, but the situation must be monitored.

Why kill it you ask? I posed the same question to the DFW folks and received the following answer. The deer is mature now and will be going into its first rut (breeding season) this fall when deer do goofy things because they are smitten with love. He could become a danger to the public, especially children, as he may attack people thinking they are rivals (or possibly lovers). He may dart out into traffic and cause an accident. It is sad, but the EPO’s must do their job and protect the public.

Personally, I hope the deer “high tails it” when he spots the EPO’s vehicle approaching. But unfortunately, it is doubted that this story will have a happy ending. If he sees a human in the woods, perhaps a deer hunter or a hiker with dogs, he may walk right up to them. The hunter may shoot him or the dogs chase him. Because he is not woods savvy, he may fall prey to coyotes, bears, etc. He may not know how to find food during our rugged winter. And don’t forget about the other wild bucks in the area who may not take too kindly to this stranger who is wooing his harem of does.

This is a sobering example of what could happen when we interfere with Mother Nature. Madden recommends that when people encounter what appears to be abandoned fawns, they should contact his office before doing anything. As far as Parker, Madden recommends that he make it uncomfortable for the deer to stay there or be near humans. *****

According to DFW’s Astrid Huseby, this spring’s youth turkey hunt was the most successful to date with 275 participants signing up statewide to hunt on the youth day. Of those youths, 82 students (30%) were successful in harvesting a turkey. Some 57 birds were reported online and 25 reported at a physical check station. A survey of the young hunters revealed:
23% had never hunted turkey before, 12% had never hunted anything before, 96% saw turkeys,
68% had an opportunity to take a shot, 72% of youth hunted during the regular season and
17% harvested a bird during the regular spring season

DFW will be celebrating the Youth Turkey Program’s 5 year anniversary at the next Fish & Game Board Meeting on July 31at the Western District Office in Dalton. The meeting will start at 1pm. The National Wild Turkey Federation has created plaques for each club to thank them for their dedication to this program. Astrid will also be giving a brief Power Point presentation to the Board about the program.

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