MDC encourages public to leave wildlife wild

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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The spring season brings blooms, sunny skies, warmer temperatures, and a variety of newborn animals. Young wildlife can pull on our heartstrings as they look to be abandoned, but that’s rarely the case. The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) reminds the public that the best place for wildlife is in the wild.

“Young animals are rarely orphaned,” explained MDC State Wildlife Veterinarian Sherri Russell. “When we see newborns alone, that means the parents are likely out searching for food and will return.”

A common newborn species we may encounter in the spring is young birds.

“If you see a chick with feathers hopping on the ground, leave it alone because it’s a fledgling and its parents are nearby keeping watch,” Russell urged. “Fledglings can spend up to 10 days on the ground learning to fly. If you find one that has no feathers, it likely fell out of its nest and you can return it to the nesting area if possible.”

Another animal Russell warns against interfering with is young rabbits.

“Rabbits seldom survive in captivity and can actually die of fright from being handled,” she explained. 

MDC MYTHBUSTER: Human scent does not cause wild mothers to reject their young.

“It takes a lot of knowledge to care for and rehabilitate wild animals,” stressed Russell. “It requires special training, permits, and facilities. Not to mention, it’s illegal to possess many wild animals without a valid state or federal permit.”

Russell also cautioned that wildlife can become dangerous as they mature, and can carry disease, parasites, and cause property damage.

“We know people have good intentions, and it can be tempting to take these cute, young animals in our homes, but the best thing we can do for wild animals is to leave them be,” she said.

To learn more about Missouri’s native wildlife, visit the MDC online Field Guide at