SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – It is that time of year again – young animals are beginning to explore the world. And while they may be cute, Utah wildlife officials are issuing a reminder about handling those baby animals.
Several reports have come in from across the state of people taking home newborn fawns and baby racoons, according to the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.
Taking home young animals, or any protected wildlife, is not only dangerous, but illegal, according to DWR. Protected wildlife includes a number of species, like deer, cottontail rabbits, several bird species, bears, cougars, and others.
Some wild animals are not protected under Utah law, meaning you do not have to have a valid hunting or trapping license to harvest them. Still, there are different rules in order to keep one in your possession.
Wild animals, like raccoons – which are not native to Utah – and coyotes, require a permit in order to house them in captivity. Importing, distributing, relocating, holding, and possessing live coyotes or raccoons within the state is governed by the Agricultural and Wildlife Damage Prevention Board and is prohibited under Utah Code, except as permitted by the State Veterinarian’s Office at the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food.
Unpermitted animals may be seized immediately by the DWR, Department of Health, the Department of Agriculture and Food, animal control officers, or peace officers if the person possessing the animal cannot produce a valid permit for each individual animal. The following wild animals, according to DWR, are considered non-protected wildlife in the state of Utah:
- Striped skunks
- Ground squirrels
- Jack rabbits
- Field mice
You may be written a citation for illegally possessing these animals, which is a Class B misdemeanor.
“It’s important to protect the health, welfare and safety of the public, as well as wildlife,” DWR Law Enforcement Capt. Wyatt Bubak says. “These animals are wild and should be treated as such, even when they are babies.”
In addition to the legal consequences of taking a wild animal, DWR warns diseases, viruses, and parasites can be transmitted to humans and pets via saliva, feces, or urine.
Raccoons, for example, can include rabies, canine distemper, raccoon parvoviral, enteritis, infectious canine hepatitis, and pseudorabies. They can also carry and transmit leptospirosis and toxoplasmosis, which can be lethal for unborn babies.
Raccoons can also be infected by the roundworm Baylisascaris, a parasite, according to DWR. Raccoons seldom display any symptoms of having these roundworms and can transmit them to people and other animals via their feces. This parasite can cause extreme damage to the human eye, organs, and brain.
Additionally, fawns and other big game animals may look harmless when they are born, but can become aggressive as they get older, particularly around dogs, and during breeding seasons. Whenever wildlife becomes habituated to people, it can lead to dangerous situations for both the animals and the public.
If you do come across a baby animal in the wild, and you fear it may be abandoned, DWR says it likely is not – its mother is almost always nearby. DWR recommends you leave the animal where you found it and do not touch it.
If you have concerns or the animal appears to be sickly or injured, you can contact the nearest DWR office.