5Ws+1H: What It's About: Supposed abandoned, injured wildlife should be treated with caution

May 2—Spring has brought the arrival of various wildlife, but local residents should be wary when approaching a supposed injured or abandoned animal.

Cherokee County Game Warden Cody Youngblood said if someone happens to stumble across some wildlife, he typically advises that it be left alone.

"Their best chance of survival is with their mother in nature in the wild," Youngblood said. "Unless we know for certain that that animal has been abandoned or that mother is dead, we want them to leave them alone."

A fawn being left alone is a normal occurrence that doesn't always mean the mother has abandoned her offspring. Youngblood said the mother is often around close with a watchful eye over her young.

"She will leave it alone during the day usually while she's somewhere close by because deer, for instance, the fawns don't necessarily have a smell to them so the predators aren't smelling them and going to them. If they do come upon them it's just by chance, so mom is probably around their close," Youngblood said.

Youngblood said no wildlife, from turtles to rabbits to deer, can be kept as a pet or nursed back to health by the general public.

According to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation administrative rule, Title 800:25-38-2, "No person shall possess any injured, sick, young or other wildlife for the purpose of rehabilitation without a Wildlife Rehabilitation License issued by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. However, individuals may transport injured, sick or young wildlife, immediately upon discovery of such animal, to a person licensed to rehabilitate wildlife."

Depending on the situation and type of animal, fines including court costs can range from $339 to $989. Repercussions can not only result from having the actual animal, but also by being in possession of certain parts of wildlife.

According to the 2023-'24 Oklahoma Fishing and Hunting Regulations, "It shall be unlawful for any person to have in their possession any meat, head, hide, or any part of the carcass of any wildlife not legally taken. The keeping of wildlife as pets and the sale of wildlife or parts is strictly controlled by state and federal laws."

If someone is worried a fawn has been abandoned, Youngblood said there are some signs to look for, including the deer being covered in ticks and dry tips on the ears. Animals that are deemed as being abandoned or injured must be taken care of by a licensed wildlife rehabilitator.

Youngblood said game wardens get many calls about supposed orphaned or abandoned animals, but most are not truly in this situation.

An injured animal can not be taken in by the general public, so a rehabilitator or game warden must be called.

"It just depends [on the injury]," Youngblood said. "There's lots of deer that can survive on three legs, but if it's been injured, let's say a fawn has been hit by a tractor or a farmer cutting hay they can go to those licensed wildlife rehabilitators. They will assess it and doctor it back up to the point it can be released back into the wild. If it can't be released back into the wild, then it has to be put down."

Those who find abandoned or injured wildlife can call the Youngblood at 918-431-2552 or Cherokee County Game Warden Matt Farris at 918-431-2562. Contact information for licensed wildlife rehabilitators can be found at www.wildlifedepartment.com/law/rehabilitator-list.