Spring is a busy breeding season for wildlife, and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) reminds Illinois citizens not to bother or handle baby birds and other young wild animals.
Wildlife biologists are often contacted during the breeding season by well-meaning people who believe incorrectly that they may be protecting young wildlife by taking possession of baby birds, rabbits, fawn deer, and other animals that may appear to have been abandoned or orphaned. In most cases, these animals and birds are still being cared for by their parents, which likely stay away from dens and nests if people are nearby.
The Illinois Wildlife Code provides legal protection for wildlife. It is against the law to keep wild animals as pets, or to raise wild animals believed to have been abandoned. Additionally, responses by agencies like the IDNR to incidents involving wildlife can be costly to taxpayers.
Anyone with questions about care for possibly abandoned wildlife can contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. To learn more about potential wildlife conflicts, and keeping people, pets and wildlife safe, visit the new Wildlife Illinois website at wildlifeillinois.org.
All wild birds, except the rock pigeon, European starling, and house sparrow, are protected by federal law. This includes protection of eggs, nests, and feathers. The IDNR works with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect and manage birds in Illinois.
Some additional reminders about wildlife in Illinois:
• Birds often leave the nest before they can fly. These birds, known as fledglings, will live on the ground for a few days while they grow flight feathers; you may hear them making noises calling for their parents to feed them; it doesn’t mean they are in trouble. Keep children and pets away.
• Do not attempt to rescue fawns. Fawn deer often stay still to conceal themselves until they are old enough to keep up with their mother; the female deer may not stay near the fawns for fear of alerting predators to their presence. People should leave fawns alone and the mother will return.
• It is illegal in Illinois to feed wild deer. When deer congregate, it can facilitate the spread of disease and cause other unintended consequences.
• Wild birds and animals can become habituated to people when they are provided food, so don’t leave pet food outside at night, clean up under bird feeders, secure the lids on garbage cans to keep raccoons and other wildlife out, and don’t feed Canada geese and coyotes in urban/suburban areas. Nuisance animals can become dangerous to people.
• Handling wild animals can result in the handler being bitten. According to the Centers for Disease Control, wild animals that bite a person must be euthanized immediately to be tested for rabies.