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April 05, 2013

Spring Means Baby Wildlife

 

It is taking winter a long time to release its grip here in Washington, D.C., but this unusually cold spring has not slowed down the local wildlife. Our Humane Wildlife Services team has been out in full force—climbing through attics and peering down chimneys for squirrels and raccoons.

As part of our commitment and investment in developing and perfecting humane approaches to urban wildlife control, our team keeps detailed records of every wildlife exclusion job they perform, how well it worked, how long it took for mothers to retrieve and move their babies and what might be done to improve reunion success. Humane Wildlife Services does not trap and relocate or kill wild animals that are causing conflicts with homeowners, which is often the common practice in the burgeoning wildlife control industry. Rather, we simply evict the attic-dwelling squirrel or chimney-living raccoon, remove babies if present, and block any entry points that were being used to gain access to the structure we want to protect. 

Gray squirrel at the Cape Wildlife Center
Heather Fone/The HSUS

We then reunite the babies with their mother by using specially constructed reunion boxes in which the young can be comfortably held and warmed if necessary until mom comes back to retrieve them—which the mother almost always does. Then, using her extensive knowledge of alternative den sites (scientists refer to an animal’s “cognitive map” of the home range or territory they occupy), the mother moves the young to an already known and existing safe harbor and remains within her home range in which she can easily acquire the needed resources necessary to raise her young. 

The concept is elegantly simple, solves homeowners’ problems, and saves animal lives. But it is far less practiced than the lethal option of trapping and killing the mother and either leaving babies to die in their attic or chimney den or removing and surrendering them to a wildlife rehabilitator, who is likely to already be swamped with orphans to care for and is unnecessarily burdened with others who need not have been remitted to their care. 

The HSUS is committed to making this practice an industry standard and utilizing it elsewhere wherever possible. That is why our urban wildlife specialists have focused on the broader concept of orphan reuniting; actively working and promoting the development of reunion criteria for many species of wildlife.  For instance, recent advances in wildlife rehabilitation have demonstrated that many orphaned birds of prey can successfully be re-adopted by their own parents or even other adults if the proper vocal cues are used to attract attention to them as quickly as possible.

We are learning that an owl or hawk chick blown from a nest and brought by a caring individual to a wildlife rehabilitator stands an excellent chance of being reunited with a parent or even an unfamiliar adult and cared for if brought back out to entice the adults to reunite. Recordings of the young’s calls can be broadcast to help attract the adult animals to begin providing care. Because the maternal instinct is so strong the young’s vocalizations are a powerful attractant to their parent(s) and playing them has helped reunite young even days after the original separation occurred.  Every young animal we can successfully reunite with an adult allows for more resources for animals that are not candidates for reuniting and who may need long-term care. 

Reunion and reuniting are important keys to the future of the humane treatment of urban wildlife.  The HSUS is committed to these concepts and we’re investing in developing and perfecting these techniques. It’s worth every penny. 

Click here to enjoy our latest reunion video of the first squirrel babies of the year.

Found an injured or orphaned animal? Click here for resources.

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