Warning: Don’t touch orphaned wildlife

Protect young moose, bears and yourself by giving them plenty of space

If you see a cute little moose calf, bear cub or other wildlife baby who appears helpless and abandoned, don’t touch!

A protective mother is likely close by and she will be very aggressive about defending her young one.

That’s the advice of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game on encounters will young wildlife, especially from now through early July, all over Alaska.

“Give them plenty of space,” says Dave Battle, an Anchorage area wildlife biologist with ADF&G. “Try to avoid single tracks and narrow, brush trails where limited visibility might lead to a run-in with a cow moose and calf.”

Bicyclists and runners should be especially alert on hilltops and corners. Making noise to alert wildlife of your presence is a good precautionary measure, 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.

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 are orphaned, it’s best to leave them alone. Do not attempt to feed or pick them up. This kind 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 ADF&G in zoos or other accredited wildlife facilities, but unfortunately space is limited. Animals raised in captivity and released into the wild generally have poor chance of survival.

If you observe a young animal that appears to have been left alone for an extended period of time, contact the nearest ADF&G 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.