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Special hunt offers disabled hunters a shot at dove

Thursday, July 15, 2004

The National Wild Turkey Federation wants to be sure hunters with mobility impairments have a chance to hunt North America's most popular game bird.

EAST PRAIRIE -- Hunters with mobility impairments will get a special shot at dove hunting at Ten Mile Pond Conservation Area. The Conservation Department and the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) are sponsoring a special event for hunters with disabilities Sept. 3 at the conservation area in Mississippi County. This is the second day of dove season, so odds are good the hunting will be excellent.

The Conservation Department will provide hunting areas for the exclusive use of hunters who have reservations for the event. NWTF volunteers will serve as guides, helping hunters get to and from the field and retrieving downed birds.

Participants will need to arrive at Ten Mile Pond CA headquarters at 5:30 a.m. and must leave the fields by 1 p.m. They must have small-game and migratory bird hunting permits and hunter education certification cards. For reservations, call Larry Neal, 573/334-8881, or Tim Hendershott, 573/335-9350.

* Young wildlife best left in the wild

Survival of fawns and other young animals is best in their natural homes.

JEFFERSON CITY--Each year, dozens Missourians find fawns without their mothers nearby and decide the young deer have been abandoned. Believing they are performing a good deed, they bundle the adorable, spotted animals off to the nearest Missouri Department of Conservation office. It's a scene that's as tragic as it is common.

Conservation Department officials say wild animals almost always are better off in the wild than in captivity. For adopted fawns, the next stop is a private wildlife rehabilitation facility, where the deer are hand-fed until they are mature enough to be released back into the wild. Few of those deer survive the transition from captivity to living free.

Fawns adopted by humans lose the chance to learn survival skills from their mothers. They learn what to eat and where to find it, what to be afraid of and how to avoid predators from their mother's examples. Fawns raised in artificial settings have to learn on their own.

This is unfortunate, because in most cases it is unnecessary. Most whitetail fawns brought to Conservation Department offices were not deserted. Their mothers simply were not visible when well-meaning humans happened along.

The confusion occurs because people expect deer to act like humans. Human mothers don't leave their babies alone in clumps of grass, so people assume when they find a fawn alone that it has been abandoned. They don't realize that what is good for human babies is not necessarily good for wild ones. Does visit their fawns only long enough to nurse them. By staying away the rest of the time, they avoid drawing predators' attention to their young.

People who take fawns out of the wild often do so within sight or earshot of their mothers. The good news is that the mistake can be corrected. Contrary to popular belief, deer and other wildlife won't desert their young just because they have human scent on them. Chances are good that a doe will find her fawn if it is returned to the area where it was picked up, even if it has been gone for a day or two.

Conservation Department offices statewide receive hundreds of calls each spring and summer from people who find young birds, raccoons, opossums and a variety of other wildlife that they believe have been abandoned. In most cases nothing is wrong, and human intervention is inappropriate. Birds often grow too large for their nests before they are able to fly. They fall or jump out, and parents continue to bring food for them on the ground.

"Rescuing" a young animal from this situation is likely to result in its death.

Most people aren't equipped to supply young animals' dietary needs. If a child brings home a baby bird or rabbit, return the animal as quickly as possible to the place where it was found. If you have a flightless bird in your back yard, keep your pets indoors for a few days. The parent birds will continue to care for the little one until it can fly.

Some young deer, birds, rabbits and squirrels do die, victims of predators, inclement weather or just bad luck. But Conservation Department biologists say that's how nature works. Predators need food to survive, and nature produces many more baby animals than needed to sustain wildlife populations. Death, they say, is a necessary part of life in the wild.

-- Jim Low