By Glen Wampler, Wild SideMay 16, 2013
FORT SILL, Okla.-- Every year at this time we start getting calls about deserted baby animals. Elk calves and deer fawns will be born later this month. Turkeys, quail, and other ground nesters are hiding their nest in thick clumps of grass as we speak. Bobcats and other furbearers' young are getting a little size on them and will start to roam around a little.
If you keep your eyes open, it is amazing all the wonders you can see in nature. Even if you don't spend time out on our ranges or hiking on the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, you may see some of these young fellows out roaming around near the road.
Another place to see some of these wonders is at the deer pen in the Conservation Education Center. These are the only animals in the center that we let breed and later this month or early in June we should have a couple of fawns to watch. It is a great project to come by every week or so with the youngsters so they can keep track of the fawns' growth. Many youngsters develop a bond with the fawns and enjoy seeing how they change as they grow.
It's also a good idea to have them notice the buck's antlers as they regrow this summer. It's really quite amazing how much antler they can develop in a short amount of time. With a week or two between visits there will be a lot of change.
On the other hand, there are many times that well-intentioned folks decide to help nature along when nature really doesn't need any help. Several times each year we have folks who find a little rabbit hidden out in the grass or maybe a fawn that is just lying on the ground or maybe even a nest in the grass with several eggs. Mom appears to be nowhere to be found. So she must have abandoned her baby or maybe a predator killed her. Not very likely!!
Most likely mom is somewhere nearby. If not watching, she at least is very aware of where the youngster is. She may leave the young one to go to feed for a short period of time. She also knows that if she stays too close then she will draw attention to the young animal and which could lead to its death.
In the case of birds, once they start to incubate a nest they will spend most of their time on the nest, but some occasionally leave long enough to feed. If you stay at the nest looking at it too long, you keep her from returning as soon as she should. This could cause the eggs to cool too much and cause the nest to fail.
It has also been proven in tests that some predators are smart enough to follow human scent trails trying to find tidbits of food. If one follows your scent and you go by a nest, that animal has definitely found the food it was looking for. Mom may escape, but the eggs are doomed.
So what is the point? The point is that unless you can see mom lying dead nearby, please assume she is alive. She can take the best care of her offspring and give it the best chance of survival.
If you see a young animal out in the wild it is best to observe from a distance and leave the little fellow alone. Not only will it help them, but it will also keep our folks from having to play mom to a bunch of babies. Most of us aren't overly fond of those every four hours of feedings during the night.
Fort Sill is a great place to hunt, fish and just enjoy watching various wildlife. The best way to keep it that way is to watch the young ones from a distance. Give nature a chance and she takes pretty good care of herself.
Our next Fort Sill Sportsmen Safety Class is May 20 at 6 p.m. in Building 1465's Natural Resources classroom. We will have another class June 10 also at 6 p.m. You must take this class before going out on the ranges for recreation purposes. At the class you will learn the required procedures for access.