By JENNIFER CHEN
Capital News Service
LANSING – Nature has its own rules. One of them is: protect baby animals by leaving them with their mothers.
Parents will abandon their babies if they are removed from their natural environment, according to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
In addition, some wild animals have diseases or parasites that can be passed to humans or pets, DNR said.
“Nearly 1,000 wild animals are rescued by licensed rehabilitators each year in the state. However, thousands died due to inappropriate care by the public,” said Richard Grant, executive director of the Howell Conference and Nature Center.
The general public can’t properly feed wild animals with proper formulas. For example, most people do not know baby raccoons can’t be fed whole milk, raw eggs or honey, he said.
Sherry MacKinnon, a DNR wildlife ecologist in Newberry, said, “We appreciate the good intentions of those who want to help, but the animals are better off left alone than removed from the wild.”
However, she said that many animals actually don’t need help. For instance, even if a fawn appears to be abandoned, its mother is almost always nearby.
Also, MacKinnon said does sometimes leave their young unattended up to eight hours at a time.
She said licensed rehabilitators are better trained to handle wild animals and know how to release them so they can survive in the wild.
Susan Good, director of Northernaire Wildlife Rescue of Northern Michigan in Cheboygan County, said. “Wildlife rehabilitation skills can’t be learned by reading online sites. If it were that easy, caring for wildlife would not require a license to do so.”
Good, a licensed rehabilitator in Cheboygan, Cheboygan County, said the public should keep in mind that harboring wide animals is against both state and federal laws and may result in hefty fines.
Her group handles a lot of injured or abandoned wild animals, such as Mallard ducklings, whitetail fawns and fox squirrels, as well as porcupine, raccoon and wild ducks.
However, Good said that when people find a small injured baby animal, the first thing to do is to get it warm.
“Wearing gloves, place the animal in an appropriate-sized container filled with old T-shirts or blankets and bring it indoors,” she said.
But people should not attempt to capture bigger injured animals. Instead, they should immediately call a wildlife rehabilitator for further instructions because those animals require special handling and will often inflict injury when frightened or in pain, she said.
The DNR issues state wildlife rehabilitator license and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issues the federal license.
Licensed wildlife rehabilitators in Michigan can be found at the DNR website http://www.michigan.gov/dnr.