Wildlife Rarely Left Alone

Young wildlife are rarely orphaned, so leave them where you find them. The advice you are likely to hear if you bring a young wild animal home is “put it back,” and you might get a warning or citation from Oregon State Police, too.

Because of the damage it can do to both wildlife and people, removing an animal from the wild is illegal under Oregon wildlife laws. (ORS 497.308 – No person shall remove from its natural habitat or acquire and hold in captivity any live wildlife in violation of the wildlife laws.)

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. When removed from the wild, the animal misses the chance to learn where to seek cover, what to eat and how to escape from predators and other dangers.

Here's how to help instead:

  • Keep pets and other domestic animals away to help wildlife this time of year. Pets will stress wildlife, especially if there are young wildlife or fledgling birds in your yard. Keep dogs on a leash when recreating outside.
  • If you are certain an animal is orphaned because you saw its parent die, or you see an animal that is injured, please call ODFW, a licensed wildlife rehabilitator, or OSP for advice.

Deer and Elk

Oregon’s deer and elk give birth from May through July. It’s natural for mother animals to leave their young alone and hidden 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. Deer and elk see dogs as a threat to their young so may act aggressively in response to disturbance from a dog.

Marine Mammals

The advice to leave animals in the wild applies to all wildlife—including adult and young marine mammals that are commonly seen alone resting on rocks or the beach in spring and summer. Beachgoers should stay away from resting seals and sea lions and keep dogs away from these animals as well. Marine mammal strandings should be reported to OSP's hotline at 1-800-452-7888.


Some baby birds, called fledglings, may become separated from their parents as they learn to fly. These are sometimes mistaken as abandoned birds. Unless obviously injured, fledglings should be left where they are or lifted carefully back into the nest or onto a branch to avoid predators, so they have the best chance at survival.

Ducklings and goslings frequently become separated from their mothers due to disturbance from humans or predators. If you spot young waterfowl without a mother, please leave them alone and leave the area so the mother can return.

With the recent detections of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in Oregon, it is more important than ever to avoid close contact with waterfowl (ducks and geese) this spring and summer. Do not feed ducks and geese. Feeding congregates susceptible birds and enables the disease to spread between birds more easily. Also, note that Oregon's wildlife rehabilitators are not currently accepting sick ducks and geese to protect other avian patients and education birds in their care.

For more information on young wildlife visit https://www.dfw.state.or.us/resources/viewing/FAQs.asp

Source: Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife

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