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Thursday, May 12, 2016

Coexisting with Wild Neighbors

Today's post isn't about our domestic friends per say, but our animal community as a whole and how we can all live in balance.  Spring is a beautiful time of year, and with it comes new life all around us, especially in the wild animal kingdom, and sometimes our wild kingdom and domestic collide.  Barney the dog finds a nest of baby bunnies, or we come upon a baby bird hopping in the grass, a large rain or wind storm comes through and you find a baby squirrel on the ground.  The main question, is how can we help and not hurt mother nature, and how to we know when it is time to intervene?  Below are a few short to do's and not to do's.  When in doubt however, or if the animal is in imminent danger, please contact your local wildlife rehabilitation center, or the game commission immediately,  Never try to raise a baby animal yourself, always refer to a wildlife rehabber in your area.  They are licensed and trained professionals.

Never assume that an animal is abandoned/orphaned without careful research of the situation.  Doing so can jeopardize the survival of the baby animal.

Here are a few tips to ensure you are making an informed decision:
  • Rabbits leave the nest for most of the day.  They feed their young in the early morning hours and the twilight hours in the evening. This serves two the nest is only barely covered in the ground by leaves and brush, or grass...if mom were to sit with her babies throughout the day, predators would know where her babies are.  The other purpose is in reference to the time of day she feeds...during these hours vision for most animals is disrupted and makes it harder for them to see mom at the nest feeding her babies. 
    • If you find a baby rabbit whose eyes are not opened and they are not actively hopping about on their own, try to locate the nest and put the baby back, Use the nesting you find to cover the babies up again. To ensure mom is coming back take two small twigs and criss cross them over the nest.  If you come back after normal feeding time and the twigs have been disturbed then you can safely assume mom is still caring for her babies. 
    •  Always look for rounded bellies on the babies too.  You can use these same steps if you accidentally uncover a nest,  
    • If mom is not coming back or you know for sure mom is not able to come back.  Put the baby or babies in a dark, quiet place, even take some of the nesting and cover them with it, and call your local rehab center or game commission for immediate assistance.  Do Not attempt to feed or care for the babies on your own.  
    • Bunnies are extremely sensitive and a licensed and trained rehabber is their best chance for survival at this point.
  • Many of our northern native birds are what we call ground fledgers.  So when the babies have developed enough feathers for short flights they will hop out of the nest to the ground and mom will encourage them to hop and jump flapping their wings until they can do short flights up to low bush branches and eventually take off and fly to higher ground.  Mom is usually near by.
    •  If you have ever approached a feathered, hopping baby and you see a and hear an adult flying and crying frantically...that's mom.  She is trying to get you away from her baby and she will put herself in harm's way to save that baby.  Even to the point of acting as if she is injured and an easy target for predators to lead them away from her babies. 
    •  If the baby you find is not feathered and hopping around, wearing gloves, or using a small towel, you can attempt to locate the nest and put the baby back.  If you cannot, put the baby in a shoe box, or other small box with lots of soft tissues keeping them warm, and try to keep the environment around them as quiet as possible.  DO NOT feed them or give them water. 
    •  Immediately contact a local rehab center or the game commission for immediate assistance.  
  • Like rabbits, the Doe will leave her fawns in a safe area while she forages.  She rarely is very far from them.  Never assume a fawn is abandoned unless you know for sure the mother is deceased.  
    • If you come upon a sick, injured or definitely orphaned fawn call for immediate assistance.  Deer are often covered in ticks and other parasites, and are also extremely sensitive to stress.  Removing them from the area without proper equipment and training can badly injure them. 
  • Baby Squirrels can sometimes fall out of the nest, or their tree gets chopped or blown down or another animal disturbs the nest.  
    • If you can find and safely put the baby back in the nest that is the first option.  The other is keeping the area secure and a close watch on the baby from a distance to see if mom is coming back.  
    • If its clear mom is not returning to rescue her baby, place them in a warm small container...with holes for air of course and contact your local rehab center or game commission.
While it is very tempting to raise a baby wild animal on your own, or care for an injured animal it is against the law.  And in many cases if caught, not only will you be heavily fined, the animal, if believed unable to return to the wild, will be destroyed, and therefore your good intentions can have damaging consequences.  

The goal is to never handle a wild animal unless absolutely necessary, and if you have to be sure to always wear gloves and or use a towel to wrap them in gently to prevent injury and to calm them for transport.  ALWAYS refer to a professional for help, and remember that their mom is their best chance for survival.  Even in a professional rehab center some animals do not respond to the care and survive.

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