GREAT FALLS — A well-intentioned effort to help a baby deer is serving as a reminder to leave baby animals where you find them.
Someone recently brought a fawn to Great Falls firefighters after seeing the fawn’s mother had been hit and killed by a car.
Great Falls Fire Rescue said in a Facebook post: "Bystanders found this little fawn after its mother was hit on the road and brought him to Station 2. E2's crew had some time to hang out with the little fella."
The firefighters took care of the fawn until game wardens from Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks could come get it. The fawn was then euthanized.
FWP said that the only other option would have been to put the fawn back where it came from, but with its mother dead, the fawn likely would not have survived and may have even suffered alone in the wild.
State law prohibits any animals except bears and raptors from being sent to FWP’s wildlife rehab center.
"There's a big issue in Montana with chronic wasting disease, so any time animals are being moved around, there's a likelihood of spreading disease around, and they just have a really low survival rate in captivity anyway,” explained Dave Hagengruber, FWP Information & Education Program Manager.
More information from FWP about its annual reminder with the theme, "If you care, leave them there."
FWP believes wild animals thrive better in the wild where they have plenty of natural habitat (food, water, shelter, space) and thrive better with other wildlife than with humans, who they consider an apex predator. Nature provides them the best options for survival and a better quality of life.
The potential to spread wildlife disease is also a good reason to leave young wildlife alone. Baby ground squirrels, racoons and rabbits can carry zoonotic diseases, which means diseases that are infectious for humans. Examples include plague, hemorrhagic diseases and tularemia.
If you see a baby animal, whether a goose or a grizzly, keep your distance and leave it alone. Handling baby animals can be dangerous, and usually once young animals are picked up by people they can’t be rehabilitated.
What can you do?
- Leave It There. It’s natural for deer and elk to leave their young alone for extended periods of time.
- Control Your Dog. Keep your dog under control, especially in the spring when newborn wildlife is most vulnerable. Pet owners can be cited and dogs that harass or kill wildlife may by law have to be destroyed.
- Keep Cats Indoors. Many birds nest and feed on the ground. Young birds are also learning how to fly, making them vulnerable to cats. The bacteria in cat saliva are toxic to birds, so even if a cat does not immediately kill a bird, its bite often leads to infection and death.
- Keep in Mind. It is illegal to possess and care for a live animal taken from the wild.
As a wildlife agency, FWP’s priority is to keep wild animals wild. When people keep and raise elk, deer or other animals, it habituates wildlife to humans, potentially causing problems once released back into the wild.
Should someone bring a deer or elk to FWP, they'll be asked to take the animal back to the site where it was found. If the animal can't be returned, it may need to be humanely euthanized.