“Is your mama a llama?” I asked my friend Dave.
“No, she is not,” is the answer Dave gave.
“She hangs by her feet and she lives in a cave. I do not believe that’s how llamas behave.”
“Oh,” I said. “You are right about that. I think that your mama sounds more like a… Bat!”
The classic children’s guessing book chronicles a llama’s search for its mama. In the end, we learn that only a llama mama really knows how to take care of a young llama.
Seems obvious, right? Yet without fail, every spring and summer, kind-hearted animal lovers across the continent take it upon themselves to “rescue” young wildlife. And every spring and summer, we learn that their attempts are unsuccessful.
Earlier this year, visitors to Yellowstone National Park “saved” a young bison calf that appeared cold by placing it in their SUV and transporting it to the park office. They were promptly ticketed, but the calf could not be reunited with the herd. It was euthanized.
In a similar incident this year, a woman found a seal pup on the beach near Westport, Washington and took it home. Upon realizing she had no idea how to care for the pup, she called authorities. The young seal was so weak that officials made the difficult decision to euthanize.
Some rescue attempt, huh? As it turns out, these “rescuers” were removing animals from a far more nurturing situation than they realized. Animal mamas commonly leave their young. Adult white-tailed deer find time to feed after hiding their spotted fawns in brush. Fledgling songbirds may look helpless, but adult birds are nearby to teach their young to fly and bring them food.
Of course there is a time and place for a proper rescue. Spot a road kill opossum with live young still clinging to her back? If you are genuinely concerned about the opossum population in your area, or if you just couldn’t live with yourself if you left the helpless young to die, then by all means, call your local wildlife rehabilitator and save the little ones!
Just don’t assume that a lonely baby means a mama-less baby. In the end, we’ll learn that wildlife mamas know best when it comes to caring for their young.