Animal Writes
10 May 2000 Issue
Wildlife Tips For Spring

by [email protected] 

Spring has sprung, and it's time for wildlife birthing season. Often, nesting mothers bring conflicts with mankind as man's growth drives these creatures to become "urban wildlife." To help you and people you know co-habitate with wildlife and solve wildlife problems humanely, the rehabilitation center where I volunteer has compiled some "telephone tips" that we encourage you to read and share with your friends.

Bunnies - Orphaned or Kidnapped?

Bunnies' nests are easily stumbled upon because they are often placed in open, grassy areas or gardens. Bunnies are too frequently mistaken for orphaned because Mother bunny is away from the nest most of the time making the nest less conspicuous to predators. Also, she can give a possible predator a "run" in the opposite direction. If found alone, just place a light twig on top of the nest of bunnies. Check after dark and after dawn to see if it has been disturbed. The same idea can be used with flour. Dust the area around the nest with flour, and see if any tracks can be viewed near the nest after these times. Mother bunny only visits the nest a couple times a day to feed. Keep in mind the fast maturing pace of bunnies and that they leave the nest not too long after 2 weeks of age. A rule of thumb, "If you have to chase it down, leave it alone." The bunnies will be doing well on their own at this point. Tragically, bunnies don't rehabilitate well. Wild rabbits do not make good pets. See if you can replace the bunnies back into their nest.

Fawns - Orphaned and Abandoned

Does follow the same rule as mother bunny. She knows her baby is less conspicuous if she isn't around. The first few days of life the fawn lies in tall grass or brush designated by Mother doe as she goes off to forage. Newborns have no scent at all and can't be traced by predators. Mother stands still, as baby, while keeping eye contact, walks a few feet away from Mother (and her scent), and lies down. When Mother approves of the site, she goes off to forage. It's a little harder to determine if a fawn is truly orphaned. Reminder! Mother doe can be potentially dangerous to an observer. A doe found dead nearby may cause reason for suspicions. A fawn in the area displaying unusual behavior such as following you or your family pet, or seen for a period of time crying and looking lost may be declared orphaned.


*Advise another time of the year besides spring to cut down any trees, especially hollow ones

Always reunite Baby bird with Mother bird. When Baby bird is even partially feathered and fallen from the nest, mother usually appreciates human intervention in replacing Baby into the nest, even thought she seems irate during this procedure. If the nest isn't accessible, nailing or stapling a strawberry box, shoebox, or margarine tub with bedding high into the same tree can create a secondary nest. Mother can usually cater to both nests. Observe from your window to see that Mother is caring for both nests. It won't be long before the babies are flying, however, fostering may be necessary for new hatchlings requiring constant incubation from Mother if nest cannot be reached.

Bats - Grounded

Occasionally a bat is found struggling on the ground. Though it appears to be injured, it really only needs to be elevated. Because bats can't "lift off" from the ground, placing a bat on a fence or tree limb usually solves the problem immediately. Because bats are potential rabies carries, you need to have the right equipment to do this. Gloves and a hooded shield are advised. You may be all right by just using a stick or something, but don't touch the animal. Many times you cannot even feel it when a bat bites.


*Please be informed that 50% of all dead opossums on the road in the spring have a pouch full of babies. Though they should keep a tight grip on mother's nipple inside the pouch, they can gently, yet firmly, be pulled off.

Don't be too eager to write one off as dead. They have the real talent for "playing possum." Actually, in a panic everything shuts down; even heart and respiration are slowed. If the opossum is lying in a safe place (off the road) determine how long you have observed the animal lying there. Sometimes half an hour can result in a miraculous recovery. If you do check an opossum's pouch for babies on the road, pull back the arch shaped flap of skin on the belly. Lift this up on all sides. The pouch is not like a pocket, like you might imagine, but is more like a small drawstring bag that isn't completely closed.

Wildlife Nuisance Issues - Most common in nesting seasons

Evidence of a raccoon, squirrel or opossum in an attic or under a home usually signals a nesting mother. Man should not choose destruction to this furry family. Maybe it was man's responsibly to keep his home secure. Rather, turning on a light, mothballs, ammonia soaked rags, or a loud radio may cause mother to voluntarily move her family. A little flour on a level surface will display tracks of the animal's exits. After thorough inspection, make necessary repairs.

Skunks under a porch are a concern for many homeowners. Try to enjoy watching from a safe distance. It's only a matter of weeks before Mother and her babies move on. Otherwise mothballs and a radio may discourage them also. Skunks are not as dangerous as you might think. They do eat a lot of mice and insects and usually give fair warning, by "dancing", before they spray. There are several products on the market that can be purchased to discourage wildlife from roosting where you don't want them to.

Other Nuisance Issues

Always try to get Mother wildlife mammal to move her family willingly. Trapping mother and transporting her and her young to a new location usually doesn't take root. Mother, in panic, runs for her protection, and babies -- though they might be crying loudly, are left abandoned. The babies must be watched with protective eye so predators don't intercept. After several hours, babies are usually declared orphaned and brought in for fostering.

Most animal control or "critter control" do not use a humane method of getting rid of the animals, so try and convince people that are having wildlife problems that we need to co-habitate with wildlife. We are moving in on them, and they are just looking for somewhere to go.

If you or someone you know find a wildlife "orphan", please determine that the animal is for certain orphaned. Mother is intended to care for her young, not wildlife rehabilitators. If you do find a true orphan, keep it warm with a heating pad set on low, and do not attempt to feed the animal yourself, especially with cows milk. This is certain to cause diarrhea. Take the orphan to the nearest wildlife rehabilitator as soon as possible.

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