Many state and national parks have become havens for wildlife once again because of the closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic that kept humans away. But as many parks around the country are slowly reopening, we’re cautioning eager nature-goers to be aware of the wildlife around them and to expect the unexpected when returning to public trails.

Usually, many animals avoid areas bustling with human activity and head to quieter spots to breed safely, but with less people out and about during lockdown, animals have reclaimed many outdoor areas that were once popular with humans. So, when venturing back to a park or trail, make sure you’re staying alert and be prepared to share the space with wildlife.

This is also the time of the year when you may start to notice nests and dens occupied by young wildlife around your home or on trails. If you do, help keep wildlife wild by remembering the following if you encounter a young animal:

  • Adult animals rarely abandon their young. In fact, parents often leave young unattended for long periods of time to gather food and may only return a few times a day. A nest or den without a parent present does not necessarily mean that the young have been abandoned.
  • Like most parents, wild animals are protective of their young. Hawks, mute swans and bears can be aggressive if they feel their youngster are threatened. If you happen upon or newborn wildlife, do not hover to see if a parent has come back to its young. An adult animal will not return if people or pets are close to the nest or den and may become animated if they are near their young. (Here are tips on what to do if you encounter a black bear that you can follow to keep safe. )
  • Young wildlife should not be handled. Human scent is unlikely to cause parents to abandon their young; however, handling young wildlife and disturbance of a nest can alert predators to the young animal’s presence. Baby wildlife may also carry disease or parasites they can transfer to people or pets, and are capable of biting or scratching.
  • If you do feel like an animal, baby or adult, is harmed or is in danger, please contact a wildlife rehabilitator instead of trying to rescue the animal yourself. You can find a rehabilitator here.