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Conservation-But They Are So Cute By: Kevin Williams, Grundy County Conservation Director

May 24, 2018
Northern-Sun Print
Spring is here (and some days have felt like spring is nearly past). Could it be only few weeks ago that we were experiencing snow delays and cancellations? The calls about wildlife babies began several weeks ago. The annual onslaught of calls came with the same message: “I found a baby animal. What do I do?” And with the first ones, I found myself saying “this can’t be. Its too early for this” But no matter what the weather, the internal clocks of so many species marched on. As hard as it is, usually the best thing to do the next time you see baby wildlife that appears orphaned is leave it alone. Stand back and observe the situation, most of the time the human desire to help or “rescue” baby, orphaned, or injured wildlife can have unintended consequences for the animal, including death. The first families of little wild things have already hatched or been born. Children’s books portray Mother Nature as kindly and nurturing. In reality, she might better be described as headmaster in nature’s school of hard knocks. Parent geese are superprotective of their little goslings, but predators like snapping turtles begin to thin their ranks as soon as they hit the water. Newly laid eggs in hundreds of bird nests face all kinds of threats even before they hatch. Eggs are high quality protein for a variety of other creatures including fox squirrels and blue jays that live around many of our yards. House wrens and house sparrows destroy the eggs of other cavity nesting species as they try to take over nest sites. What I am trying to convey in all of this is that while we may view orphaned wildlife babies as only cute and cuddly, their place in the ecosystem includes sometimes (many times) being critical food for others. Never attempt to rehabilitate a wild animal yourself. It is against the law to keep wild animals. Spring is a busy time for wildlife parents, who typically leave their young alone, sometimes for long periods, throughout the day. This does not mean that the parent is not nearby and very conscious of where they left their babies. If you find a baby bird that is not fully feathered or its eyes are closed, return the bird to its nest. If it is not possible to access the nest or it was damaged in the fall, place the nestling in an artificial nest at a lower location as close as possible to the original location. Artificial nests can be made from a small basket or box lined with dry grass, soft cloth or shredded paper. Minimal human handling will not discourage the parents from caring for a baby bird. The parents may be wary of the new location or nest, and might take a few hours before they approach but they will return. So, I end this article with what some will think is a cruel message. No matter the cuteness factor – be it a baby deer, baby raccoon, baby wood duck or countless other wildlife babies, leave the “orphans” in the wild.



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