With the backdrop of the bison calf in Yellowstone that was killed this month after tourists put it in their car, a great deal of attention has been put on the correct way to act if you stumble across a baby animal alone in the wild. There are many different beliefs about contact between humans and baby animals, so we’re taking a look at what’s true and what’s false.

Although coming across a lone baby bison does happen, more often than not, people are likely to come across a smaller animal like a deer, bird or rabbit. Many believe that if a parent animal smells humans on its baby, it will abandon the offspring. That is almost completely untrue. Birds cannot smell humans. Most animals will do anything they can to protect their babies, so they will not abandon them just based on a human smell.

It’s also important to remember that many wild animals leave their babies for short periods of time throughout the day. When fawns are young, the mother deer  leaves them in one spot and chooses not to  visit them too often because of her strong scent that could potentially draw predators.

So when should you intervene and when should you not? Wildlife in Crisis Inc., a CT based wildlife rescue organization, says to survey the area first before touching the bird, deer or other small form of wildlife.

Birds: If it is a baby bird and you can see the nest it has fallen from, it is ok to place it back in the nest. If you can not locate a nest and feel like the bird’s life is in danger either from nearby pets, traffic or if it appears injured, place the baby bird in a woven basket and be sure to keep the bird warm. Then, immediately call your local wildlife rescue organization to have them assist you.  

Young mammals: WIC stresses the importance of wearing gloves before touching any wild animal to protect yourself and the animal. If you find a baby squirrel, raccoon, rabbit etc. first check for signs of injury or illness. If the animal is injured, bring it to a vet or wildlife rehab center immediately. If it is not injured and does not appear sick or dehydrated and is in a safe area, leave the animal alone.

Fawns: Fawns on the other hand, should be handled differently. WIC says that 99% of fawn calls do not involve orphaned fawns. Generally, if there is no dead doe in the area or on nearby roads, the fawn is not an orphan. Often does will not return to their fawns until well after dark. The best thing to do if you see a lone fawn is to keep a safe distance from it and make sure your pets do the same. If the fawn has wandered into someone’s garage or other precarious position, gently coax the fawn out or move to a quiet, nearby site while wearing gloves. Do not move the fawn too far.

Click here to locate a wildlife rehabilitation center near you.