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March 21, 2014

Spring Forward -- for Wildlife

The calendar says spring, but winter doesn’t seem to want to release its hold in some parts, with snow forecast again for next week in Washington, D.C.. But rising temperatures and other signs of spring cannot be held off for many more days. 

Squirrel
The first two baby squirrels of the season arrive at the Cape Wildlife Center. These two were brought in after someone found them and disturbed their nest and was not able to reunite them with their mom. See a slideshow of the spring animals at the animal care centers here.

As the air and soil warm, animals also get more active, bringing life with a new season. At our wildlife care centers, that means babies, and lots of them.  In March, April and May last year, our three affiliated wildlife care centers  (in California, Florida, and Massachusetts) took in more than 1,600 animals – from barn owls to turtles to foxes. To help animals at this time of year, there are some ways you can help, or some rules to pass on to neighbors and friends.

Ten Ways to Spring for Wildlife this Spring

  • Create a Humane Backyard. Perhaps the best way to help wildlife this spring is to create your own sanctuary for them in your own backyard, patio, or balcony.

  • Postpone your spring tree cutting. Squirrels and raccoons den in tree hollows with babies, and trees become nest sites for woodpeckers and all manner of songbirds. Your trees may be occupied, so before cutting, survey as best you can for active dens or nests. Learn more about humane spring cleaning here.

  • Scrap the trap. Spring and summer is when wild animals search out secluded dens and nest sites for raising young – and some of those sites may be in your attic, chimney, or under your deck. Whether you are having issues with prairie dogs, skunks, or pigeons, there are resources available to help you and them.

  • Re-nest baby birds. It’s a myth that if you touch a baby bird, the parents will abandon their baby. There are signs to look for to see if they need help here.

  • Don’t kidnap fawns. People don’t realize that it’s entirely normal for deer to “park” their fawns in yards or other “hiding” spots.  The doe will only visit and nurse her fawn a few times a day to avoid attracting predators to her scent.  Unless you know that the mother is dead, or if the fawn has been crying and wandering around all day, leave him or her alone. 

  • Leave baby rabbits. If the nest is intact and the babies are not injured, leave them be. Mother rabbits only visit their young 2-3 times a day. If you’re concerned, you can put an “X” of sticks or yarn over the nest to assess if the mother is returning to nurse them. If the X stays perfectly in place for 12+ hours, they may be orphaned and need to go to a wildlife rehabilitator.

  • Put up your woodchuck fence. Set up protection for your vegetable garden now - see our tips for preventing conflicts with woodchucks here.

  • Contain your trash. Many wild animal “problems” are actually created by poor garbage disposal practices. Keep trash indoors until the morning of pick-up, use an outdoor storage container (available at home building stores), or use Animal Stopper garbage cans, which have built in bungee cords and are virtually raccoon proof.

  • Don’t rush to judgment about rabies . It’s false that seeing raccoons, foxes, or coyotes active during daylight means they have rabies.  Only if they are acting strangely --- circling, dragging themselves, acting injured or unusually aggressive or tame, should you call an animal control officer for assistance.

  • Support your local wildlife rehabilitator and follow our animal care centers. In addition to volunteering or providing financial support, you can help by donating towels and blankets and other items to wildlife care centers. You can get other tips and learn of rescues and release stories by liking Humane Wildlife Services and our affiliated animal sanctuaries and rehabilitation centers on Facebook: South Florida Wildlife Center, The Fund for Animals Wildlife CenterCape Wildlife CenterDuchess Sanctuary, Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch and Doris Day Equine Center.

The HSUS is our nation’s largest animal care provider, and much of that work involves protecting wildlife. Wildlife need our help, especially during the spring.

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