As spring unfolds, people are bound to find baby birds fallen from nests and hear the chittering of baby raccoons in their attic. Before grabbing these animals seemingly in need of rescue, or deciding that the raccoon family needs to be removed, read on! People often don't realize that "humane" trapping leads to tragic outcomes for wildlife, or that many seemingly orphaned animals are just fine, and don't need our help at all! Here are some steps everyone can take to help wildlife this spring:
Scrap the trap
Spring and summer is when wild animals search out secluded den and nest sites for raising young – and some of those sites may be in your attic, chimney or under your deck. The best solution often is to wait until the family moves out on their own, or if you need them to leave sooner, to use humane eviction practices and then do the necessary home repairs when they're gone. Don't set a trap because the result all too often is that Mom is taken away and starving babies are left behind to die.
Re-nest baby birds
It's a myth that if you touch a baby bird, the parents will abandon them. The best thing to do if a baby bird falls from a nest is to put him back in it. The parents should return to feed their young. Watch carefully, they will feed their chicks several times an hour, from dawn til dusk. If the original nest has been destroyed or is inaccessible, you can hang a shallow wicker basket close to the old nest. Be sure to monitor from a distance so that the parents will resume feeding.
Postpone your spring tree cutting
Squirrels and raccoons are denning in tree hollows with babies, and songbird and woodpecker nesting season is soon to follow. Trees are virtual apartment houses for wildlife, so before doing any cutting, do a full survey for active dens or nests. The best time to cut down trees is late fall (but look for late squirrel litters in leaf nests or cavities). If you do cut down a tree and baby squirrels or raccoons tumble out, cease all activity and leave the area, so mom has a chance to retrieve her young and take them to an alternate den site.
Don't kidnap fawns
People don't realize that it's entirely normal for deer to "park" their fawns somewhere. The doe will only visit and nurse her fawn a few times a day to avoid attracting predators to her scent (the fawn is odorless). When the fawn is a month old, he will begin traveling with his mother. Just leave the fawn alone unless you know that the mother is dead, or if the fawn has been crying and wandering around all day.
You're starting to get your garden ready, yet the neighborhood woodchuck doesn't know the pending buffet isn't his for the taking. A mesh barrier put around the garden will keep him out, as long as two tricks are built into it: run the mesh loosely between stakes on the top portion is wobbly, which will prevent him from climbing over. Run the bottom 12 inches of the mesh outward, in an L-shape, parallel to the ground, and secure it with landscaping staples. This apron will prevent the woodchuck from digging under your barrier.
Contain your trash
So many wild animal "problems" are actually created by poor garbage disposal practices. Countless traps are set for raccoons who just happen to be taking advantage of a good thing, and the outcome is both tragic and preventable. Commit to keeping your 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 a built in fastening system that make the cans virtually raccoon proof!
Don't confuse rabies with babies
It's a myth that a raccoon seen by day is rabid. Mother raccoons are often out during the day, especially when people leave out pet food or when the raccoons have hungry young to feed.Seeing a raccoon in the daytime is not necessarily cause for alarm unless she is acting strangely-circling, dragging herself, acting injured or unusually aggressive or tame. Only then should you call an animal control officer for assistance.
Don't kidnap baby rabbits
If the nest is intact and the babies are not injured, leave them alone. Mother rabbits only visit their young two to three times a day to avoid attracting predators. So finding babies alone in the nest is normal. If the nest has been disturbed, or if you think the babies are orphaned, 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" is displaced, but the nest is still covered 12 hours later, the mother has returned. If the X stays perfectly in place for 12+ hours, they may be orphaned and need to go to a rehabilitator.
Help reunite orphaned ducklings
If you know what pond the duckling came from, take him back to rejoin his family. If the duckling was left behind and his origin is unknown (i.e. fished out of storm drain or spillway), you can contain the duckling with an upside down laundry basket. Monitor from a distance to see if mom returns. The mother will see the duckling through the lattice sides of the basket and make contact. If she returns, slowly approach and overturn the basket so she can collect her young.