I have been struggling for weeks, trying to think of something to write about for this newsletter that is not about the pandemic. Every single thing that we do now is affected by this virus. But it is spring, going into summer, and during this time there are many factors that influence our native wildlife. You may have seen or heard of these things before, so consider this a refresher course on how to preserve and protect these precious gifts from nature.
It is baby season! Songbirds, rabbits, deer, opossums, skunks, and raccoons are just a portion of the baby animals we see now. But sadly, many of them do not survive their first few months, even those that come into a rehabilitation facility. Why? Mostly because of humans and their actions.
The number one killers of baby animals in the spring and summer are cats. In one week alone, we received 40 calls from the public saying they had a baby bird or baby rabbit that their cat brought to them. Cats do not belong outdoors! They will stalk and attack these babies regardless of their hunger, as this is not a food response but a hunting response. And when they do attack, they rarely kill them, but “play” with them until the animal is bleeding and in shock. Cats have very powerful bacteria in their saliva and without immediate antibiotics, these babies will die, even if they survived the initial attack. The feral cat population is bad enough, but when we hear these people tell us their own cat was involved, it is very hard to accept, as these injuries and deaths could have been prevented if only these people were responsible pet owners and kept their cats indoors. Please, do the right thing for these wild animals.
Did you know that baby birds leave the nest before they can fly? Sometimes they are on the ground for several days, following the calls of the parents to get fed. Returning phone calls regarding these fledglings make up a significant portion of the day, because people think when they see a bird that cannot fly, it must be injured and must need help. If the bird is hopping, upright, alert, and with no signs of bleeding or other injury, please leave it alone! The parents are around and they are watching over their babies. If you are not sure, call us first before capturing the bird. We will let you know what to do!
Rabbits usually dig up dirt to make a nest for their babies. They prefer loose, soft dirt, like the ground in a flower bed. But they also will make a nest right in the middle of a yard, with seemingly no other protection but tall grass. Before you mow your lawn or do yardwork, walk around the area and look for these depressions. If you find a nest, mark it with a stick so you can avoid the nest when working. Relocating a rabbit’s nest does not work. The mother does not pick up young and cannot move them, so if the nest is not where she put it, she will abandon the babies and go mate again and start another nest. From the time they are born, rabbits are on their own when only four weeks old, so they will be gone after that time. Give them a chance to grow and develop by being aware of the surroundings.
We’ve also gotten several calls from people finding baby turtles. Again, leave them alone! If you see one in the middle of the road, you can move it to the side that it is moving toward, but otherwise let it be. Turtles have a specific territory that they will live in for the rest of their lives, and moving them is usually a death sentence. Remember, they have been doing this for a very, very long time without our help and interference!
Another thing you can do to help wildlife during the spring and summer is to wait until late fall to have trees removed. While storms and tree diseases can be dangerous and warrant immediate removal, most other tree removals can be held off until animals are no longer using them. In the spring there are squirrels and birds nesting with babies, but in the early fall, squirrels are again nesting. Waiting until October will help them raise their young without losing their home.
All of these things occur every year, but this year many people have been at home and have taken on projects around their properties. Because of this, they are seeing more wildlife and learning more about the animals that live close to their homes. For example, birdwatching has become increasingly popular. We hope that after this pandemic is over and we get back to some sense of normalcy, that people will continue to observe and respect their local wildlife and do what they can to protect them. The whole world is connected, and nature will find a balance. Humans need to work with nature, not against it. Everyone be safe and healthy.
Written by Ruth Brooks, FCW President & CEO