By MIKE CORN

mcorn@dailynews.net

The wildlife rehabilitation business is alive and well, but much slower than normal.

Exactly why is uncertain.

"Maybe the leave-it-alone message is getting out there," said Capt. Mel Madorin, regional supervisor for the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks' western region.

On the flip side, however, veterinarian Jessica Braun -- one of two licensed rehabilitators in the area -- said she's hearing a stricter message.

People are telling her when they call KDWP, they're being told there are no licensed rehabilitators in the area.

"I think I've had as much from Wichita this year as I've had from around here," Braun said.

Braun and Hill City resident Carrie Newell are the primary wildlife rehabilitators in northwest Kansas, and both have federal rehabilitation permits.

So far, Braun said, it's been a relatively slow year.

"I think wildlife and parks is telling people to leave them, let nature take its course," she said.

But how many people are willing to stand idly by and watch an animal die, she wonders. And without someone to properly rehabilitate the animal, Braun said, it could be a recipe for a disaster.

She pointed to the problem of a deer, and what could happen when it grows up and tries to mate with the person who sought to tame it.

Or worse yet, Braun said it could be a case of rehabilitating raccoons, which could pass along ailments that could cause serious health problems.

So far this year, Braun has gotten robins and a goose from people in Wichita, who were willing to drive more than three hours to drop off the animals.

"They are down from last year," she said of the overall number of animals brought in. "We haven't had any baby skunks.

"I think things are later this year."

She's only received two deer. Both of them, Braun said, from Ellis County and will be released back into the wild here.

KDWP has specifically targeted rehabilitation of deer, hoping to slow the movement of the animals -- given the danger from chronic wasting disease.

Madorin is especially sensitive about gathering up apparently abandoned fawns, in part because of the threat of spreading CWD.

But he also knows a fawn is left behind by its mother, and checked upon during the day.

"Absolutely," he said of leaving animals where they are. "Without any question, the animals need to be left where they're at. Animals need to be left in the wild."