PRINCETON — Officers with the Department of Natural Resources are reminding area residents that it is illegal in West Virginia for anyone to possess a fawn, or any other wildlife that has been illegally obtained.

“This time of the year we normally have one to two reports a week of someone with a fawn deer,” Officer G.W. Wood with the DNR in Princeton said. “But it is illegal for anyone to possess wildlife to include fawn deer, cub bears or anything that has been illegally obtained. A lot of times people think we still have a pet permit option, but it is something that hasn’t been available for years. You can’t get permits to keep deer, raccoon or any other kind of wildlife. The issue with fawn deer is people will find them laying and think they have been abandoned by their mother.”

However, the fawn have not been abandoned, Wood said.

“The mother hasn’t necessarily abandoned them,” Wood said. “Don’t pick them up. It gives them a much greater chance to survive if humans don’t interfere with nature.”

Wood said it is not unusual for a mother deer to leave a fawn alone for a day or longer.

“The predators are more likely to find the mother than the fawn,” Wood said. “The problem is when people pick them up they begin to put scents on those fawns, and then the mother doesn’t want a lot to do with them after that time.”

Because a mother deer will normally not care for a fawn with a human scent, Wood said the fawn must then generally be euthanized.

Wood said anyone found guilty of the illegal possession of wildlife could face fines ranging from $20 to $300, plus court courts, and up to 100 days in jail.

Wood said DNR officers have in the past recovered fawn from houses, barns and yards.

“A lot of people don’t recognize or realize that,” Wood said. “But there is only one place in the state of West Virginia where they do wildlife rehabilitation, and that is the wildlife rehabilitation center in Elkins.”

While it is not illegal in West Virginia for humans to feed deer, it is strongly discouraged, Wood said.

“It is not a good idea,” Wood said of humans feeding deer. “It does cause some issues. Anytime you gather animals together in that type of situation, the chance for them spreading disease from one to another increases.”

Wood said it is also illegal for humans to possess or feed bears.

“It is illegal to feed bears in any shape or form,” he said. “That carries up to a $5,000 fine.”

Bears who are in search of food normally remain active during the summer months. Wood said area residents should take steps to eliminate, or secure, outdoor food sources that could attract bears.

“The thing with bears, they are only there to eat,” Wood said. “As long as there is a good source they will come and get it. Especially for this time of the year when there is less (food) available for them in the woods.”

If bears are attracted to an outdoor food source, Wood said area residents should eliminate  the source of the food for a couple of weeks in a storage building or another location where the bears can’t find the food. Wood said area residents should also take steps to eliminate the smell of food outdoors. This can include rinsing food cans with water before they are placed in a garbage bag. He said bleach can also be used around a trash can to help eliminate the smell.

“The reason bears are there is because of the food source,” he said. “So once the food source is eliminated the bear is no longer a problem.”

In terms of raccoons, there is a designated trapping season, but residents must possess a West Virginia hunting or trapping license before they can attempt to trap a raccoon. It is illegal to trap a raccoon outside of that time period.

— Contact Charles Owens at cowens@bdtonline.com. Follow him on Twitter  @bdtowens