PINETOP — With summer almost here we are approaching the time of year when elk calves and pronghorn fawns are born. Each year, the Arizona Game and Fish Department receives calls when these young are picked up by people who believe the animals to be abandoned.
AZGFD understands the public’s desire to help the apparently “abandoned” animals. In reality, people are often taking a newborn animal from its parents who have “parked” the baby while they forage for food and water, sometimes for most of the day.
Unfortunately, most elk calves and pronghorn fawns must be euthanized because they cannot be released back into the wild, and zoos and sanctuaries do not have space to hold them. Elk and deer mothers will often leave their young hidden in vegetation for several hours while she is out feeding.
If a fawn or calf attempts to follow you, gently push on its shoulders until it lies down. Don’t attempt to capture the fawn or calf, even if it appears to be sick or injured. Please record the animal’s location and contact the nearest AGFD office. Once removed from the wild, elk calves and pronghorn fawns are seldom able to be returned to the wild. There are limited facilities to care for these animals and disease concerns make it very difficult to find homes for hand-raised deer and elk orphans.
“The bottom line is that ‘helping’ or ‘rescuing’ baby wildlife unnecessarily creates an “orphan,” and in some cases is inhumane. The mother is often left searching for her young, and baby wildlife raised by humans is less likely to survive when they are released back into the wild,” Mike Godwin, AZGFD field supervisor, said.
“It’s reassuring to know our society values wildlife and is passionate about caring for wild animals,” Godwin said. “But, people need to do what is best for the baby wildlife and leave them alone even if it’s difficult to accept.”
If you have questions about a specific situation, contact one of the wildlife rehabilitators listed on the department’s website at: www.azgfd.gov/urbanwildlife. Or call the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s Pinetop Regional office at 928-532-3680.