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Don't mess with forest 'orphans,' OSP warns

Trooper Christopher Boeholt holds a black-tailed deer fawn picked up by someone near Salem. It was turned over to a wildlife rehabilitation center. (Oregon State Police)
By Oregon State Police, Friday, August 10, 2018

Put it back. That’s the advice you’re likely to hear if you bring a young wild animal home to “take care of it”—and you might get a warning or citation from Oregon State Police, too.

Oregon’s deer and elk give birth from May through July and many other wildlife species also bear their young at this time of year. It’s natural for mother animals to leave their young alone for extended periods of time while they go off to feed, so never assume a young animal is orphaned when you see it alone. The mother will return when it’s safe to do so—when people, pets or predators aren’t around.

Unfortunately, every year around this time, ODFW offices, licensed wildlife rehabilitators and even Oregon State Police are flooded with calls from people who picked up a deer fawn, elk calf, fledgling bird learning to fly, or other young animal they assumed was orphaned because it was alone.

Animals taken away from their natural environment miss the chance to learn important survival skills from their parents like where to feed, what to eat, how to behave as part of a group and how to escape from predators. Usually this leads to a shortened life span for the animal.

Removing an animal from the wild and/or holding it is a violation of state law (OAR 635-044-0440 “Wildlife may not be captured from the wild and/or held...”).

Doing so is considered a Class A Misdemeanor and a court could impose a maximum fine of $6,250 fine and/or one year in jail. Last year (2017), Oregon State Police issued seven warnings and one citation to people who had picked up deer fawns, bear cubs, a baby turkey, a baby raccoon, nine baby opossums and an injured osprey.

If you are certain a young animal is orphaned because you saw its mother die, or if you see an injured animal or one in distress, call one of Oregon’s licensed wildlife rehabilitators.

Wildlife rehabilitators have the training and facilities to properly care for young wildlife and eventually return them to the wild. You can also call your nearest ODFW office during regular business hours, or Oregon State Police dispatch if an animal is in distress. 


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