Every so often, kind-hearted Hoosiers "rescue" an injured or seemingly abandoned baby wild animal and try to care for it.
The DNR Division of Fish & Wildlife has one thing to say: Don't do it.
"Most baby animals are not abandoned," said Michelle Cain, wildlife information specialist with the division. "Many animals leave their young alone when searching for food and come back to them throughout the day. They also use this as a way to deter predators, as a predator may follow the mother back to its young."
Picking up a baby animal that is not orphaned or abandoned can harm the animal and take it out of its natural environment where it is meant to be. It's also illegal.
If you believe the animal is truly abandoned, or you know that the mother is no longer alive, call a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. Licensed wildlife rehabilitators are educated to properly care for wild animals. In the hands of an untrained person, an animal is unlikely to survive if it is returned to the wild.
Wild animals also pose safety and health risks for humans. They may look helpless, cute and cuddly, but they can bite or scratch people who attempt to handle them. Some wild animals carry parasites and infectious diseases, some of which can be transmitted to humans.
If a bird has fallen out of a nest, it is OK to gently return it to the nest. The best way to make sure an animal is truly orphaned is to wait and check it periodically. If you are unsure, place some strings or sticks across the nest. Place some grass across the top of a rabbit nest that is found with young in it.
If such items are later disturbed, the mother has probably returned. In such a situation, leave the young animal alone.
In addition to calling a licensed wildlife rehabilitator (go to dnr.IN.gov/dnr/fishwild/5492.htm and click on "wildlife rehabilitator" for a list), people can find assistance by:
-Calling the DNR Division of Fish & Wildlife in Indianapolis at (317) 232-4080
-Calling DNR Law Enforcement 24 hours a day at (812) 837-9536
-Calling a licensed veterinarian
Remember, state laws prohibit keeping wild animals without a permit. Federal laws also prohibit possession of migratory birds, including songbirds, raptors and waterfowl. It is even illegal to treat wild animals for sickness or injury without a permit.
In the spring, ducks or geese often nest in landscaping or gardens. The best thing to do is leave the nest alone and try to keep any pets away. However, be aware that the bird may return next year. If the bird becomes a nuisance you can call a nuisance waterfowl control operator.