Spring and summer are wonderful times to enjoy wildlife in South Dakota, but the Game, Fish and Parks Department warns that well-meaning wildlife encounters can be potentially lethal to baby animals.

“We have a very strong nurturing instinct when it comes to wildlife, especially baby animals,” said Chuck Schlueter, communications manager for the Division of Wildlife. “Not only do we want to see wildlife thrive in our state, we want to make sure that every individual animal is taken care of. It is part of who we are as human beings, and unfortunately it can be very harmful.”

The problem, according to Schlueter, arises when people pick up baby animals – bunnies, squirrels, turtles, fawns, birds, raccoons, and others – that are thought to be abandoned. They are often taken to GFP offices and local veterinarians in efforts to save them from abandonment.

“In many cases, probably most cases, the baby animals have not been abandoned,” Schlueter said. “It is natural for wildlife to leave their young to forage for food, and even as protection to draw attention away from the young. They return to feed and care for them.”

The apparent abandonment is a very natural process of animals bringing up their young in the wild. It is when those behaviors take place in urban areas and around homes that baby wildlife are sometimes picked up by humans. Survival away from their natural setting can be stressful and often fatal to young animals.

“I know it goes against our instincts, but the most responsible way we can protect young wildlife is to keep the wild in wildlife and leave young animals where we see them. It is a lesson for both adults and children. The touch of a human being can lead to mortality as fast or faster than the challenges wildlife face in their natural setting,” Schlueter said.

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