Living with Young Wildlife
You see big eyes, a thin coat of shivering feathers, and your heart tells you “Help me, I’ve been abandoned!” However, your brain should shout, “Leave it alone!”
Baby wildlife, be it a dazed fledging resting on a windowsill, as potted fawn curled on the lawn or a kit fox balancing a fence rail,often appear alone and unprotected. They are neither. Their parents are usually nearby.
So resist your human instinct to bring the animal inside, a “death sentence” Fledgling Robinaccording to Don Bruning, Living with Wildlife Advisory Board (LWAB) member and former Bronx Zoo curator and bird researcher. He advises protecting nestlings from cats and dogs by keeping pets inside until the young bird flies away. He also recommends leaving eggs alone as parent birds typically remove undeveloped eggs from the nest.
Other tips for dealing with birds come from Kristi Strieffert, “For the Birds” owner and writer for Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology for the past two decades.
- Be aware that the area’s fledglings are most vulnerable when learning to fly, mid-June through August. Place a hunting inhibitor bib on cats outside at this time
- Place decals on windows to prevent birds from colliding into the glass.
- A bird that hits a window is typically stunned. Place a cardboard box over it for 15 minutes, then remove it and the bird generally flys away.
- When birds, particularly hummingbirds, fly into the home, first open all windows and doors leading outside. Coax the bird out with a butterfly net or pillowcase draped over a broom. If possible, simply leave the room and the bird will find its way out.
- Bluebird boxes should now be installed on trees in open areas. Clean out existing boxes to prevent starlings or house sparrows from nesting.
Carole Withers, certified Wildlife Rehabilitator from the Durango Wildlife Rehabilitation center whose specialty is raptors adds;
- If you see an apparently abandoned baby raptor (hawk, owl, eagle, owl) on the ground, do not approach it, but call Withers at 970-946-9608.
- For similarly distressed songbirds and waterfowl call wildlife rehabilitator Pat Jackson at 970-946-7452
Spring’s fawning season, the second and third week of June, “is a time when people should be particularly Mule Deer Fawnvigilant about their dogs at home and while hiking,” says Aran Johnson LWAB member and Southern Ute Wildlife Biologist. Johnson has studied the area’s mule deer populations for the past decade and notes that fawns,lacking the strength to follow their moms, often appear abandoned for quite a long time. He suggests;
- Always leave seemingly “abandoned” fawns alone. Does often leave their scentless babies in the same place several days in a row. Human contact with young deer increases detection from predators.
- While hiking keep dogs leashed until mid-July when fawns have a better chance of outrunning predators. (Author’s note; Anyone who’s heard a young deer’s screams while being attacked by a dog never wants to hear it again.)
- Check your fencing, making certain the height allows deer to jump over (42” maximum) while allowing fawns under (16” minimum from ground). “Few things bother me more than watching fawns run up and down a fence that mom has jumped over,” says Johnson. Check www.wildsmart.org for information on deer friendly fencing.
- Drivers should be alert for young deer slowly crossing roadways
The same “leave them alone” approach applies to baby raccoons, skunks, fox and all other wildlife. “We call it kidnapping,” says Carole Withers,describing well-intentioned baby wildlife rescues. She points out that few rescuers realize only birds can teach their young to fly, that raccoons have to be taught what’s edible and how to forage, and that untrained humans are not capable of teaching the basic skills to wildlife. “Not only is rescuing wildlife harmful to the animal, it’s potentially dangerous for untrained people,” adds Withers. Rabies incidences in Colorado’s wildlife are among the highest in raccoons, bats and skunks. Also, never underestimate the revenge of a mother animal protecting her young. Docile deer to tiny hummingbirds are known to attack whatever appears to be their baby’s kidnapper.
Does anyone doubt that “Leave them alone” doesn’t apply to bear cubs?