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'Orphaned' Wildlife Babies? Don't Touch!


Call the Department of Fish and Game Instead

(STATEWIDE) – Alaskans are reminded that May and June mark the season of wildlife babies. Newborn moose calves, bear cubs and other wildlife young may be encountered nearly anywhere in Alaska – including city greenbelts and trails used for hiking and biking. Hikers, bikers, dog walkers and others are urged to keep a wary eye out for wildlife babies and to not assume young animals found alone are orphaned.

Last week’s discovery and rescue of wolf pups abandoned in a den where crews were actively fighting a wildfire is rare, and calling a state biologist to the scene was the right thing to do. More commonly when young animals are encountered, mothers are nearby and will return once people leave.

Mother moose and bears frequently walk out of sight from their young or become separated from calves by fences or roads while sow black bears often send cubs up trees to wait before leaving to find food. In nearly all cases, the mothers return to their young.

Mothers of newborn wildlife are often protective and attacks by moose aggressively defending calves from people and pets are reported each spring in Alaska. If a moose calf or bear cub is encountered without its mother immediately in view, be alert because you may have walked between them. The best course of action is usually to turn and leave from the direction you came.

Even when young animals truly are orphaned, the best policy is to leave them alone. Do not attempt to feed or pick them up; unless you have a permit, this type of contact with animals is illegal and may result in a fine.

If you observe a young animal left alone for an extended period of time, call the nearest Alaska Department of Fish and Game office; if the situation involves an immediate public safety concern, contact the Alaska State Troopers. For more information, visit http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=distressedwildlife.mammals. (and see below).

Stranded, Dead or Orphaned Wildlife - Moose, Bears, and Other Mammals - Orphaned mammals - Leave them alone!

Many of the calls to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) about “orphaned” animals involve bears and moose.

Don’t assume a young animal is an orphan simply because it is alone. Often its mother is nearby and will return once you have left the area. Almost always, the proper response is to leave the animals alone.

Female moose and bears will walk away from their calves and cubs if they think their young are safe. Cow moose and their calves are sometimes separated by fences or roads but usually find each other again. Female black bears will often send their cubs up trees to wait while the mother goes off to hunt or fish.

Even when an animal truly is orphaned, it is usually best to leave them alone. Do not attempt to feed or pick up an orphaned animal yourself or tell anyone else to do so. Unless you have a permit, this type of contact with animals is illegal and may result in a fine.

Because wild animals can carry disease or become aggressive, it is never a good idea to try to handle them. If wild animals are held in captivity and then released, they can spread new diseases (for example, from nearby domestic animals) into wild populations. A common misconception is that wild animals can be placed in zoos. In truth, there are very few placements available. All decisions to take an orphan animal into captivity must be approved by the ADF&G Division of Wildlife Conservation Permits Section (see below).

When You Should Call for Help

If you observe a lone calf or cub over an extended period of time, or you believe there is a safety concern, please feel free to contact ADF&G for help:

  1. First call your local area management wildlife biologist. If you don’t know who that is, you can ask at your local Alaska Department of Fish and Game office.
  2. Other helpful contacts:
    • The department’s Division of Wildlife Conservation, Permits Section in Juneau, (907) 267-2253
    • The Division of Wildlife Conservation Headquarters in Juneau, (907) 465-4190
    • Local wildlife troopers (look in the phone book under State of Alaska, Department of Public Safety, Bureau of Wildlife Enforcement)

Sick, dead and diseased mammals

Wild animals can carry diseases that may spread to humans and animals can become aggressive if disturbed. Please contact your local ADF&G office if you find a sick or dead animal and need assistance.

Dead or injured moose sometimes pose safety hazards if they are near trails or homes; part of the concern is that their smell or distressed calls may attract bears. If you have concerns, please call your local ADF&G office.

Find out about a variety of wildlife diseases and parasites commonly found in wild animals, or diseases that are being tracked by the department’s veterinary program.

State offices are open Monday through Friday, 8am-5pm, with the exception of state holidays.



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