Remember to leave wildlife in the wild

Editor's note: In light of the couple who thought a baby bison was too cold and put it in their SUV – only to have its mother abandon it later because it came in human contact – I thought this message was appropriate. Also, although this release is from the Michigan DNR, its message certainly applies to everyone everywhere.

With spring in full swing, Michigan residents may be noticing an increase in sightings of nestlings and baby animals. For example, baby cottontail rabbits and raccoons are a common find this time of year. The Department of Natural Resources reminds those who stumble across a nest of baby bunnies or see other baby wildlife to please leave them be. Leaving wildlife in the wild is best for humans as well as animals.

“Animals are better left alone than removed from the wild," explained DNR wildlife technician Hannah Schauer. "A nest full of young rabbits may look helpless, but staying in the nest is their best chance for survival. However, we appreciate the good intentions of those who want to help.”

If a rabbit’s or other animal’s nest is found, it's important to also keep children and pets away. If the nest is left alone, the mother will likely return when she feels it is safe.

Every day an animal spends with humans makes it less likely to be able to survive in the wild. Animals that are habituated to humans generally do not do well when released back into the wild.

For your safety – do not take a wild animal from the wild. For example, raccoons may seem cute, especially when they are young, but they are well-known for becoming aggressive as they get older. Wild animals can act unpredictably, even if they seem tame. It is important to remember they are still wild animals and can seriously injure a person or pet.

Additionally, raccoons and other wild animals can carry diseases and parasites that can infect humans and pets. Whether an animal may be a carrier of a disease or parasite cannot be determined simply by observing it's physical appearance.

Only licensed wildlife rehabilitators may possess abandoned or injured wildlife. Unless a person is licensed, it is illegal in Michigan to possess a live wild animal, including raccoons and rabbits.
The only time a baby animal may be removed from the wild is when it is obvious the parent is dead or the animal is injured. A licensed rehabilitator must be contacted before removing an animal from the wild. Rehabilitators must adhere to the law and have gone through training on the proper handling of injured or abandoned wild animals and will work to return the animal to where it will have the best chance for survival.

A list of licensed rehabilitators can be found by visiting or by calling your local DNR office.