Steer Clear of “Orphaned” Wildlife Babies, Mother Likely Lurks Nearby
- ADF&G Press Release

Sam Cotten, Commissioner
P.O. Box 115526
Juneau, Alaska 99811-5526

Press Release: May 13, 2016

Contact: Ken Marsh, Public Information Officer, Anchorage, (907) 267-2892

Steer Clear of "Orphaned" Wildlife Babies, Mother Likely Lurks Nearby

(Statewide) — Alaskans stepping outside to enjoy the wonders of springtime are reminded that May and June mark the season of wildlife giving birth. Newborn moose calves, bear cubs and other wildlife young may be encountered nearly anywhere – including in backyards, city greenbelts, along popular trails – and despite initial appearances, protective mothers are likely nearby.

“We’re already receiving reports of newborn moose calves,” said Anchorage Area Wildlife Biologist Dave Battle.

Moose calving generally peaks around the third week of May, and young can be encountered well into June. Cow moose can be particularly dangerous during calving season and attacks on people and pets by mothers aggressively defending calves are reported each spring.

“The best policy with moose right now is to 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.”

Battle added that the common advice to make noise (many mountain bikers and hikers use bear bells) to alert wildlife to your presence is not necessarily effective for moose cows with calves this time of year.

“Newborn calves aren’t able to run from pets or people on bicycles,” he said. “Their 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 from their young, cache them, 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 may result in a fine. Moose calves and other animals taken from the wild can sometimes be placed in zoos or other accredited wildlife facilities. Unfortunately, the facilities available often have limited space. 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. If the situation involves an immediate public safety concern, contact the Alaska State Troopers.

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