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Pet Tip: When Encountering Wild Animals - Determining When To Help

By Robin Tierney

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As people take more and more land for housing developments, highways and other purposes, wild animals are displaced from their homes. No wonder we see them in our yards, wandering by roadways, and even in commercial areas. Humans enjoy homes with lovely views of nature, yet sadly, often lack understanding and tolerance when it comes to nature's animals trying simply to thrive in the face of shrinking habitats and food sources.

There are more humane alternatives to repelling animals than poisoning, traps and hunting. Many tactics, such as speading holiday tree lights across bushes and other perimeter plantings, and motion-detecting sound-makers, can be found by doing web searches.

And it is up to us to keep our companion animals from harming baby wildlife, which we're now seeing with the arrival of spring. Remember that dogs and cats have predatory instincts - so keep pets adequately restrained or keep them indoors for safety's sake.

What if you're outdoors with your pet and come upon a young wild animal? Here's good advice from cruelty investigator Judy McClain and the Humane Society of the United States.

Article 1:
When To Leave Wildlife Alone and When to Take Action

by Judy McClain, Cruelty Investigator, SPCA/Humane Society of Prince George's County

Spring means more newborn wildlife will be visible as with the increase of development we have taken over their habitat forcing them to live in smaller areas.

If you see a baby fawn, bird or other wildlife, it's usually best to leave the aninal alone. Fawns are born without a scent making them less noticeable to predators. The mother may leave the fawn alone for hours as a defense to keep predators away, coming back at least two times a day to feed her baby. In a few days, the fawn will join her mother and herd.

Upon finding a fawn, many people assume the he or she has been abandoned. Typically that is not the case. If there are no signs of injury, it's best to leave the animal alone. However, if the mother has been hit by a car or found dead, then the baby does need help - contact your local animal control department.

Baby birds on the ground may appear to have fallen from the nest. This can happen, but sometimes the baby bird is just learning how to fly. If the nest is within reach, it is okay to put the baby back in its nest.

Article 2:
How to Know When a Wild Animal Needs Help

The following tips are excerpted from an article by Sydney Smith in Wild Neighbor News, the Humane Society of the United States. See the entire article at http://www.hsus.org/ace/11934?pg=1

Helping Your Wild Neighbors

Baby wildlife is becoming a more familiar sight as housing developments, strip malls, and industrial parks take over habitat. The challenge for those of us who are concerned about these small creatures is to balance our tendency to want to help them with an understanding of their needs. These animals are much more adapted for survival than most of us realize. So while it's appropriate to help a young wild animal who falls victim to pesticides, free-roaming dogs and cats, and automobiles, we should be aware that we may cause more harm than good when we step in to help. How to Know When an Animal Needs Help

First, try to determine whether the animal is hurt or sick. Is the animal shivering, vomiting, or bleeding? Does the animal have an apparent broken limb or wing? Has it been attacked by a dog or cat? If the answer to any of these is yes, then the animal needs assistance. The best thing to do is to contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator immediately. These experts care for injured, ill, and orphaned wild animals with the goal of releasing them back into their natural habitat.

If the answer to the above questions is no, then try to figure out if the animal is orphaned. 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 its young. The following guidelines will help you to determine whether help would be intervention or interference.

Birds

Nestlings (naked or with beginning feathers)

A nestling may fall or be blown or pushed out of the nest. Try to place the nestling back in the nest. Human scent on baby birds will NOT discourage parent birds from caring for their young. If the nest is out of reach, construct a makeshift nest out of a margarine dish with several holes punched in the bottom or use a small basket - straw, wicker, or the lattice type used for berries. Attach a wire or twine so that you can hang the basket from a tree branch. pad the interior of the basket with soft, smooth cloth or paper toweling, place the nestling inside, tucking the feet under the body, and hang the basket as close to the original nest as possible. Watch for the return of the parents; if no parents return by dark, the nestling may be in trouble. Call a rehabilitator for advice.

Fledglings (feathered, sometimes with downy tufts)

These young birds are learning to fly - a process that may take several days - and should be left alone to practice hopping and flying from low shrub branches to the ground and back. The parent birds should be within view of the fledgling; you may not see them, but you probably can hear them making sounds from a nearby tree.

Rabbits

Rabbits are independent animals, not orphans, if they are more than four inches long and have full fur, open eyes, and erect ears. Rabbit nests are usually found in a shallow, furlined depression in the grass. If you come upon furless young who are out of the nest, return them to the nest. Re-form the nest if it has been destroyed, cover the young rabbits with loose grass, and then mark the nest with an X using sticks or some natural-colored material, such as wool ribbon. Female rabbits only feed their babies at dawn and dusk, so you are unlikely to see the mother return. If she returns, she will move the marker when she enters the nest. If the marker remains undisturbed and the baby rabbits' abdomens appear sunken the next day, then the mother has not returned to feed them, and you should contact a rehabilitator. Young rabbits easily succumb to stress, so you should handle them only as a last resort.

Squirrels

A baby squirrel on the ground probably needs help. If he is very small and has closed eyes, he is unable to climb or fend for himself. Place him in a box at the base of a tree and stay completely out of sight. The mother will usually retrieve her baby squirrel within a couple of hours. If she does not, call a rehabilitator for advice. Do not leave the squirrel out overnight. Older juveniles who are fully furred and climbing are capable of surviving on their own.

Deer / Fawns

Young deer are also left alone, usually hidden in tall grass, for long periods of time while the mother feeds. Unless the fawn looks injured, diseased or dazed, leave the animal alone and vacate the area so that the mother will feel safe in returning.

Opossums

Opossum babies are carried in the mother's pouch as they mature; when they grow too large for the pouch, they often cling to the mother's back. Occasionally they fall off, and opossums less than seven inches long (not including the tail) may need a rehabilitato's assistance, as the mother will not come back to retrieve them. However, opossums who are longer than seven inches and have fur are independent and should be left alone. Many opossum babies have been saved from death on the road by being retrieved from the mother's pouch or from the area where a mother has been killed by a car. (Note: Do not try to remove a baby opossum from the pouch yourself. They actually swallow the mother's nipple and require an expert to remove them.)

Call a Rehabilitator

If you determine that a wild animal needs assistance, a wildlife rehabilitator is the best person to call. A rehabilitator can explain what to do to keep the animal safe, quiet, warm, and protected until you can get the appropriate help. It is important to keep cats, dogs, and children away from the animal while determining if the animal needs help or remains in the area. Never attempt to rehabilitate a wild animal yourself. They have very specific needs, and the care that would nurse a human or domestic animal back to health could harm a wild animal. Further, in most states it is against the law to keep wild animals unless you have permits to do so, even if you plan to release the animal.

Who to call for sick, injured or nuisance wildlife:

Wildlife rehabilitator locator
http://www.tc.umn.edu/~devo0028/contact.htm

Department of Natural Resources 1-877-463-6497. Hours 8 am - 5 pm

Local animal control departments as well as local/county humane societies/SPCA groups usually have an emergency/helpline

To find humane ways to discouraging animals from entering your yard, see the Dog Tip on garden as well as other articles on the web.

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For more of Robin's Dog Tips, see the index at  www.paw-rescue.org

Partnership for Animal Welfare
P.O. Box 1074, Greenbelt, MD 20768

Last Updated: June 23, 2013 (LET) PawSupport