Treat wildlife cautiously

Now that central Pennsylvania is experiencing some breaks from the persistent rainy weather that has dominated the past several weeks, more people will be venturing outside more often, not just to do yard work but also for walks in the woods or to enjoy recreational assets that parks offer.

Most people don’t reflect routinely on how much they enjoy those activities until after, getting out of work or having completed other necessary tasks, they feel locked inside their homes by the seemingly endless soggy conditions.

But with the coming of springtime’s more pleasant weather and the opportunities to enjoy the outdoors more often, also comes a temptation to which some people succumb. It’s a temptation that the Pennsylvania Game Commission addressed in a May 22 news release titled “Springtime alert — do not disturb young wildlife.”

The news release quotes Matthew Schnupp, commission wildlife management director, who issued the following reminder:

“People want to help wildlife that appears to be in trouble, but what they often don’t realize is that when they encounter a young wild animal by itself in the spring, it’s usually not alone nor in need of rescue; its mother is nearby. Leaving such an animal alone so it can reunite with its mother is the best, most caring thing you can do for it. It ensures the young animal has the chance to grow up as intended.”

But there are other reasons for steering clear of direct contact with the animals in question — reasons that adults should recognize and convey to their children.

As the news release points out, interfering with young wildlife or removing any wild animal from its natural setting can be harmful, not only to the wildlife but to the people in contact with it.

“Wild animals can lose their natural fear of humans, making it difficult, even impossible, for them to ever again live normally in the wild,” the release points out. “And anytime wildlife is handled, there’s always a risk people could contract diseases or parasites such as fleas, ticks and lice.

One infection is Lyme disease, which is transmitted primarily by blacklegged ticks — referred to locally as deer ticks.

The disease often begins with flu-like symptoms, but as it progresses, much more serious conditions develop, such as arthritis, nerve pain and irregular heartbeat.

Meanwhile, there is growing evidence that chronic wasting disease, a fatal brain illness that has been killing area deer, might have the potential to infect humans.

Besides the danger of a person contracting a disease by having contact with a wild animal, there’s the monetary penalty that could come from having taken or having possessed an animal from the wild. State law stipulates that the penalty for such a violation can be a fine of up to $1,500 per animal.

According to the Game Commission, it under no circumstances allows a person who has taken wildlife into captivity illegally to keep the animal or animals.

During the pleasant days ahead, enjoy the outdoors but heed the Game Commission’s message:

View wildlife from a distance, both for your sake and that of the animal.