Sacramento, California - During spring wildlife are busy attending to their new offspring, foraging food and expanding their habitat. During this season of rebirth, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) reminds people to leave young wildlife alone if they see them outdoors.

The improper handling of young wildlife is a problem in California and across the nation, especially in spring.

“Many people don’t realize that it is illegal to keep California native wildlife as pets,” said Nicole Carion, CDFW’s statewide coordinator for wildlife rehabilitation. “Never assume when see young wildlife alone that they need assistance. Possibly, the mother is simply out foraging for food. If you care, leave them there.”

A healthy fawn may lay or stand quietly by itself in one location for hours while its mother is away feeding. Once a fawn is removed from its mother, it can lose the ability to survive in the wild. The same danger applies to most animals, including bears, coyotes, raccoons and most birds.

The state’s rehabilitation facilities receive 400-500 fawns per year from well-meaning members of the public. Many of these fawns are healthy and should not have been disturbed. A phone consultation with a rehabilitator can help would-be rescuers to determine whether there is a need for intervention. Rehabilitators are trained to provide care for wild animals so they retain their natural fear of humans and do not become habituated or imprinted. In California, it is illegal for anyone other than an approved wildlife rehabilitator to keep wildlife in captivity for more than 48 hours.

In addition, wild animals carry ticks, fleas and lice, and they can transmit diseases to humans, including rabies and tularemia, so it is best to leave the responsibility for intervention to CDFW personnel or permitted wildlife rehabilitators.

“It’s always best to leave young wildlife alone, unless it is confirmed that they are orphaned or injured, and never keep them as pets. Wildlife look so cute when they are young, but when they grow up, they are difficult to handle and even dangerous,” Carion warned.

For more information on wildlife rehabilitation, please visit www.dfg.ca.gov/wildlife/rehab/facilities.html.