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Wednesday, June 28 2017 @ 04:26 PM AKDT

"Orphaned" Wildlife Best Left Alone

Nature"Don't touch!" That's a phrase worth remembering from now through early July as newborn moose calves, young bear cubs and other wildlife babies start appearing in Alaska's backyards, urban greenbelts, and along popular trails. Tug-at-your-heartstrings cute, they may appear helpless and abandoned, but a protective mother is likely nearby.

Cow moose can be particularly dangerous during calving season, warns Anchorage Area Wildlife Biologist Dave Battle, and attacks on people and pets by mothers aggressively defending calves are reported each spring.

"Give them plenty of space," said Battle. "Try to avoid single tracks and narrow, brushy trails where limited visibility might lead to a run-in with a cow moose and calf."

Bicyclists and runners should be especially alert as they can swiftly top hills or round corners and run into moose. Making noise to alert wildlife to your presence is always a good precaution, but may not be enough to avoid clashes with moose cows with calves.

"Newborn calves aren't able to run from pets or people on bicycles," Battle said. "Mothers are likely to stand their ground, even when they hear you coming."

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 back away and leave from the direction you came. Also, do not assume young animals found alone are orphaned. Mother moose and bears frequently walk out of sight, cache their young, or become separated from them by fences or roads. Sow bears often send cubs up trees to wait before leaving to find food. In nearly all cases, the mothers return to their young.

Even when young animals truly are orphaned, it's best to leave them alone. Do not attempt to feed or pick them up; this type of contact with animals is illegal and could result in a citation and fine. Lingering nearby or approaching a young animal for a photo may discourage the mother from returning. Moose calves and other animals that are truly orphaned can occasionally be placed by the department in zoos or other accredited wildlife facilities. Unfortunately, space is limited, and animals raised in captivity and released into the wild generally have poor chances of survival.

If you observe a young animal that appears to have been left alone for an extended period of time, contact the nearest Alaska Department of Fish and Game office during regular business hours, or use the department's new smart phone-friendly link to file a report online after hours or on weekends by visiting http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/ and clicking the "Report a Wildlife Encounter" button. If the situation involves an immediate public safety concern, call 9-1-1 or contact the Alaska State Troopers.

For more information, visit http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=distressedwildlife.mammals

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