GRAND CANYON, Ariz. - The Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGF) are asking the public not to approach or try to care for baby wildlife.
"We understand people's desire to help seemingly abandoned animals such as baby birds and bunnies," the department said in a press release. "However, despite their best intentions, people are often taking a wild baby animal from its parents who have parked the baby while they forage for food and water, sometimes for the majority of the day."
AZGF said some species of baby animals must be euthanized because they cannot be released back into the wild, and zoos and sanctuaries do not have space to hold them.
"The bottom line is that helping or rescuing baby wildlife unnecessarily creates an orphan, and in some cases is inhumane. The mother is often left searching for her young, and baby wildlife raised by humans is less likely to survive when they are released back into the wild," said Mike Demlong, wildlife education program manager with Game and Fish. "The department's wildlife rehab center and others around the state are inundated every year with baby birds and rabbits - and even bobcat kittens, bighorn lambs and elk calves - that were never abandoned and should not have been taken from the wild. In essence, these baby animals were kidnapped."
Young wildlife such as rabbits and squirrels found in yards or in the field are rarely abandoned. Game and Fish said once the perceived predator (humans, cats, dogs ect...) leaves the area, one or both parents will return and continue to care for the young.
Baby birds are the most common wildlife species encountered by the public and removed from the wild. Young birds that have fallen from the nest can be placed back in the nest or as close as possible. Those that are partially flighted should be left alone or in some cases moved nearby out of harm's way. Contrary to popular belief, human scent will not prevent the parents from returning to care for their young, according to Game and Fish.
Eggs of ground-nesting birds like quail should be left in place when discovered.
"It's reassuring to know our society values wildlife and is passionate about caring for wild animals," Demlong said. "But, people need to do what is best for the baby wildlife and leave them alone even if it's difficult to accept."