One of the many pleasures of spring is watching wildlife prepare for and raise their next generation. Both our bluebird houses are occupied, our raptor house is filled with squirrels, and we are hoping our bat house will soon be filled. There are various holes in the ground adjacent to our bird feeders and nests in the trees. I love watch the male ducks look after their mates and the hawks dance in the sky.
As many people I feel the need to keep all of nature safe. Big mistake, Mother Nature knows exactly what it is doing. We need to understand that all animals are as knowledgeable as we are of caring for and raising their families. Many of us, myself included, have interfered with this process bringing about unintended results. As April, May and June are birthing months for much of our wildlife in Michigan it is important to be aware of how unnecessary we are in this process. The rule of thumb is….’Hands off.’ This is not to be cruel but rather informative as we all want to be helpful…it has taken time and willpower for me to trust the wildlife.
I was horrified when reading an article written by a local Wildlife Technician which mentioned that half of the fawns the Care Center receives are stolen from their mothers. It is not uncommon to come across a fawn in the woods or your garden at this time of year. They are curled up, motionless and make no attempt to run away. This may lead you to believe they are suffering, however all they are suffering from is stress from your presence. The fawn sees humans as predators and this is their natural reaction. The fawn’s mother more than likely left it there to keep it safe. The fawn’s coloration and lack of scent also promotes safety. If you touch the fawn you give it your scent which will not bother the doe but will make it possible for a predator to locate it. The doe has gone off to feed and can be gone from 6-8 hours at a time. She knows her scent will attract predators. She will return several times a day to nurse her baby but will not approach if she senses danger and that is you.
If you have taken a fawn take it back to the spot you found it. If the spot presents an obvious danger place the fawn within 200 yards of the original spot. Fawns have been reunited with their mothers two to five days after they were removed. Never feed fawns as their digestive system are very sensitive and easily damaged. Skinny and wobbly is the norm. If it is too late to return the fawn or you are sure the animal has been abandoned or injured the animal must be turned over to a licensed wildlife rehabilitation worker. These individuals are trained to care for wildlife. It is illegal to remove wildlife from their habitat. In most states wildlife belongs to the state.
So how do you know if an animal is in distress. The Humane Society gives the following advice:
“Signs that a wild animal needs your help
- Presented by a cat or dog
- Evidence of bleeding
- An apparent or obvious broken limb
- Featherless or nearly featherless and on the ground
- A dead parent nearby
- Crying and wandering all day long”
Capturing and transporting the animal
Never handle an adult animal without first consulting a wildlife professional. Even small animals can injure you. Once you’ve contacted someone who can help, describe the animal and his physical condition as accurately as possible.
Unless you are told otherwise, here’s how you can make an animal more comfortable for transport while you’re waiting for help to arrive.
1. Put the animal in a safe container. For most songbirds, a brown paper bag is fine for transport. For larger birds or other animals, use a cardboard box or similar container. First, punch holes for air (not while the animal is in the box!) from the inside out and line the box with an old T-shirt or other soft cloth. Then put the animal in the box.
2. Put on thick gloves and cover the animal with a towel or pillowcase as you scoop him up gently and place him in the container.
3. Do not give the animal food or water. It could be the wrong food and cause him to choke, trigger serious digestive problems or cause aspiration pneumonia. Many injured animals are in shock, and force-feeding can kill them.
4. Place the container in a warm, dark, quiet place—away from pets, children and all noise (including the TV and the radio)—until you can transport the animal. Keep the container away from direct sunlight, air conditioning or heat.
5. Transport the animal as soon as possible. Leave the radio off and keep talking to a minimum. Because wild animals aren’t accustomed to our voices, they can become very stressed by our noises. If they’re injured or orphaned, they’re already in a compromised condition. Keep their world dark and quiet to lower their stress level and help keep them alive.”
Traveling to one of our favorite spots for morel mushrooms my husband and I almost ran over this fawn. We got out of the car to visually check it and found it to be fine. We heard the mother snort in the woods across the road. We took this picture and left immediately. When we returned, without mushrooms sadly, it was gone. This was fortunate as we were unsure of how to leave the spot without causing additional stress.
Two of my favorite young women, Kylie and Carrie found a nest full of eggs in the wreath on their apartment’s front door. What to do? This was the most frequently used door for both human and canine, of which there are three, residents of the home. It was decided the nest would remain where it was, the door would be used a little as possible and as gently as possible.
They trusted mama bird and mama bird appeared to trust them. This fuzzy little guy has come into the world ready for worms.
Morale of the story…..’Hands Off’ and appreciate from afar.
Traverse City Record Eagle, Hands off Bambi!, April 7, 2016, 3B