By Lynn Burkhead
Across the country as spring has slowly eased into summertime, people are seeing creation filled yet again with the wonders of wildlife — many obviously on the younger side.
In some places, it’s young mallard ducklings swimming on a North Dakota pothole — or maybe even a city park lake — as a watchful hen herds her young puffballs away from danger above and below. Somewhere nearby, there’s likely to be a few larger Canada goose goslings as a sharp-eyed protective mother keeps the puffy squadron close to her side and away from predators looking for a quick snack.
In some corners of rural America, it’s spindly-legged turkey poults walking along the edge of a plowed field, led there by a young turkey momma hen teaching the next crop of longbeards how to scratch for seed and search for grasshoppers.
There are young bald eagles in Alaska, wobbly-legged baby elk and moose in the Rockies, small ruffed grouse in the upper Midwest, young pheasants in the Dakotas, and even tiny woodcock if you are careful and know where to look.
Put simply, this is the season of rebirth and young life in the wildlife world, often not far from the outskirts of civilization.
Take the city of Denver, for instance, where workers at the City Park Golf Course have excitedly been observing a young white-tailed deer running around and residing on the green links in recent days.
On a recent Facebook post, workers at the course — which is closed until the fall of 2020 due to course renovation work — noted that while wildlife sightings are not an uncommon occurrence in the area lying between the Rocky Mountain foothills and the prairies to the east, seeing a white-tailed deer isn’t a typical event.
From the same post, the golf course noted that Kelly Uhing, a city naturalist with Denver Parks and Recreation, has explained that there is a herd of whitetails at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal and that may possibly be where this particular young whitetail has come from.
And the course also noted in its social media post that one wildlife worker said there are also many waterways nearby, one of which could be a reason that the young whitetail has wandered onto the course.
"Colorado is fortunate to have a diversity of wildlife, and Denver in particular, is home to many wildlife species that we don't often get to see,” noted Vicki Vargas-Madrid, a wildlife program administrator with the Denver Parks and Recreation. “Denver's waterways, such as the South Platte River, Cherry Creek, Bear Creek, Highline Canal, Westerly Creek, and gulches, serve as corridors, places for wildlife to travel to and from, forage and make their homes.”
Will the young whitetail take up permanent residence at the Denver-area golf course? Probably not, since this wild critter isn’t looking to improve its golf game anytime soon.
“Most likely, this deer at City Park drifted off its path and into the urban setting, as confused and lost as we are, by seeing it,” noted the golf course on Facebook. “In time, this beautiful sight to see, will find its way out of the inner-city and back to where it came from.”
To be sure, such wildlife sightings are not uncommon around the country right now as wildlife birth their young and raise them during the warm, hazy days of early summer. In fact, in the year of the coronavirus outbreak, such sightings may be more frequently reported than is typically usual according to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
Why is that? The Austin-based agency noted a few weeks ago that as the Lone Star State’s deer fawning season began in May, the fact that more people are working from home this year is likely to cause more wild sightings as people see things they might have otherwise missed in a normal year.
Such sightings can certainly tempt a closer inspection and interaction with wildlife, especially when something as grand as a newborn fawn is spotted tucked away in a weed patch or a brush line.
“Well-meaning people sometimes pick up these fawns, thinking that they have been abandoned by their mothers and need help,” said TPWD in a news release. “This is rarely the case. Leave all young animals alone unless it is obviously injured or orphaned. To be sure, spend time observing the wild animal from a distance in order to make that determination. Staying too close may deter the mother from returning, so be sure to practice your social-distancing skills. By interfering too soon, you may be doing more harm than good."
What should you do if your careful and remote observation determines that a young wild animal or bird may be orphaned and/or injured? One suggestion is to contact your state’s game and fish department, or perhaps even your local game warden or conservation officer, for advice on what the next step should be.
But in general, continue observing young wildlife from a distance. Don’t try to feed or move them to a different location, and don’t approach or harass the young animal trying to get a photo.
Doing the latter may once again cause the mother lurking nearby to stay away, creating an opportunity for a predator to move in or causing the young wild animal to panic, bolt away, and flee into the path of traffic on a nearby road. Any of the three could cause the unwanted death of the animal, no matter what a person’s intentions might be.
The wonders of the great outdoors are certainly intriguing to us all, whether we’re lifelong hunters, someone who loves venturing out to rivers and lakes to fish, or simply someone stuck at home and able to observe things outside a little more often than usual.
But when you see a young, wild critter, the bottom line is this: look, but don’t touch and let the wonders of creation remain wild as nature takes it course.