TOMPKINS COUNTY, N.Y. – Across Tompkins County, springtime is bringing everyone outdoors. As humans and critters awaken from varying degrees of winter dormancy the odds of cross-species encounters is high. Baby animals from fawns to goslings can be spotted in backyards and barnyards, on gorge trails and along the lakefront. While it may be tempting to approach or touch a young animal, the New York Department of Conservation urges residents to resist the urge.

“If you see a fawn, baby rabbit, or a just-fledged bird, I encourage you to enjoy the encounter from a distance and not attempt to approach or touch the animal. Remember, if you care, leave it there,” DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said in a news release.

According to the DEC, people who come across young animals often mistakenly assume they are injured or abandoned. “Young wildlife quickly venture into the world on wobbly legs or are unable to fly on their own,” the news release reads. Some learn survival skills from adult animals, but others are expected to learn the ropes on their own. “For all these young animals, the perils of survival are a natural part of life in the wild,” the DEC statement says.

White-tailed deer fawns. (Gert Federici, provided by the DEC)

When humans interact young wildlife, the DEC says it usually does more harm than good.

For example, when white-tailed deer fawns are born in May and June people might see them curled up, nearly motionless in the grass or brush. Fawns spend most of their first days alone, relying on stillness and their spotted coats to blend in with their surroundings. Does visit three or four times a day to nurse, but generally keep their distance to reduce their risk of a predator following them to the fawn.

According to the DEC, “People occasionally find a lone fawn and mistakenly assume it has been abandoned, which is rare. Fawns should never be picked up. If human presence is detected by the doe, the doe may delay its next visit to nurse.”

Left on their own, most fawns will begin to move around and spend time foraging for grass and leaves with the doe by the time they are about two weeks old.

Interacting with wildlife poses risks not only for the animals but also for humans and pets. The DEC warns that young wildlife can carry transferrable diseases and are not suited to captivity.

If you observe a wild animal that appears to be sick, the DEC says to stay away and contact the department’s regional office.

Devon Magliozzi is a reporter for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact her at or 607-391-0328.