Clare County Review & Marion Press Columns

Pat’s Bits and Pieces: Don’t Bring those babies home!

Watching the wildlife has always been one of my favorite things about living in Michigan, and it is a hobby that can be pursued just about anywhere, even in town, where, one spring, a deer trotted past the windows of our old office on the corner of Fourth and McEwan.
When we lived out on the Tobacco, more than once we stopped and blocked traffic on our way to or from town to allow deer – does and fawns – to cross Washington Road. And our big yard and wooded area must have seemed a safe haven for newborns, because quite often we had babies – deer, rabbits and others – in the grass and wooded areas around the house.
Those days are done for us, we haven’t seen any wild babies up close since we moved to this new place surrounded by fields, but daughter-in-law Micki and son Don, who have woods right next door to their place a quarter of a mile from us, have hosted at least one newborn (that they know of) in their yard already this year.
May 20th Micki heard a fawn crying in their back yard. Knowing she shouldn’t go near, she waited for the mother to come and get the baby, who wandered around the yard alone. The baby was there that day and all night in a pouring rainstorm. “We heard it crying out there all night long,” she said. The next day they investigated and found the newborn lethargic and dehydrated. It’s mom never came, so they brought the baby inside and called for help.
Isabella Central Dispatch contacted Animal Control, who in turn contacted a wildlife rehab near Lake. Someone from the wildlife rehab came and rescued the fawn that next day.
They did the right thing.
It is that time again, when we see babies along the roads, in the woods and fields. They are so adorable; you just might be tempted to pick one up and bring it home.
Don’t.
Even if the mother doesn’t seem to be around, she probably is watching you. Young animals that appear abandoned are not usually alone. Unless the youngster is obviously injured, or brought home by one of your own pets, they shouldn’t be touched or removed from their natural environment.
The Department of natural Resources wildlife experts cite a variety of problems when people bring wild creatures home in what they consider is an act of mercy.
They can carry a variety of serious diseases like distemper and even rabies. It is also extremely difficult for those animals – deer, raccoons, rabbits – to survive when they are eventually released back into the wild after being raised by humans.
Wild animals just do not make good pets. In many cases, especially if they are endangered or game animals, it is also illegal to bring them home.
If you do find an obviously injured animal, contact your local animal control agency or the DNR office. There are authorized agencies in Michigan that specialize in first aid and rehabilitation services for wild animals.
When I was a youngster, we went through quite an experience with some wild babies.
One spring, my brothers, who were out walking, found a raccoon on the side of the road. She had been hit by a car and died. Just off the road in some bushes, they found four tiny babies, orphaned by the accident and crying for their mother. They brought them home.
We reported the find to the DNR, and got permission to raise the little ones.
We had a pen with an old doghouse inside, which became the raccoon babies’ home. We let them go later that summer, as soon as they were old enough to fend for themselves.
One of the little raccoons decided to stick around. I named him Otto.
Otto lived with us for several years, and although he was free to come and go as he pleased, you could always find him around the house somewhere.
We lived on the edge of a wooded area, about five miles from town. It was lonely sometimes for me without other kids around. Otto was a great companion and together we explored all over the area northeast of Roscommon.
Since he was strictly an outside pet, Otto made a den of sorts in the attic of our garage. He slept there at times, and hibernated there through two or three winters. Finally, one spring, he just disappeared into the woods, coming home after that only occasionally, and finally not at all. By then I was around 16 years old.
A couple of years after Jack and I were married, Mom called one day to say there was an old white-faced raccoon in the yard. He came up by the back door and curled up under a tree. He was there nearly a week, eating whatever Mom took out to him. He finally died in his sleep and Dad buried him out by the pen where we had kept those babies so many years before.
I know it was Otto.

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