MDC encourages public to leave wildlife wild

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CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. – The spring season brings blooms, sunny skies, warmer temperatures, and a variety of newborn animals. Young wildlife may 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 seldom orphaned,” explained MDC Protection Regional Supervisor Russell Duckworth. “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, he said.

“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,” said Duckworth.

He said 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, he explained.

Another animal Duckworth warns against interfering with is young rabbits. He said they seldom survive in captivity and can die of fright from being handled.

“It takes a lot of knowledge to care for and rehabilitate wild animals,” said Duckworth. “It’s also illegal to possess any wild animals without a valid state or federal permit.”

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

“The best thing we can do for wild animals is to leave them be,” said Duckworth.

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