Wildlife encounters are exciting, especially when they include cute little babies.
Whether you stumble upon a nest of baby birds or have to flush a family of troublesome raccoons from your garage attic, close contact with wildlife provides a thrill. Knowing how to deal with wildlife when encountered is critically important.
Dealing with baby deer and other young critters
Finding a fawn burrowed in tall grass is really cool, but don’t touch it. That fawn has not been abandoned. The mother is nearby feeding or attempting to steer you clear of her young.
According to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, “It’s common to see fawns by themselves. A mother deer will leave a fawn during the day, both to look for food and so her scent doesn’t attract predators to the fawn, which is nearly scentless. People often mistake a fawn as abandoned when in fact it is being properly cared for by its mother.”
If you mess with the fawn, the mother may not come back. Just leave it be, and mama will come back to care for her baby. Picking up a baby animal that is not orphaned or abandoned can harm the animal and takes it out of its natural environment. It’s also illegal.
“Most baby animals are not abandoned,” said Michelle Cain, a DNR wildlife information specialist. “Many animals leave their young alone when searching for food and come back to them throughout the day. They also use this as a way to deter predators because a predator may follow the mother back to its young.”
If you are certain a baby has been abandoned or you know that the mother is dead, call a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. Licensed wildlife rehabilitators are educated to properly care for wild animals. Rehabilitator contact information is on the DNR website.
The DNR recently issued a news release with these three tips for dealing with baby wildlife:
1. Adult animals rarely abandon their young. Parents often leave young unattended for long periods of time to gather food and may only return a few times a day. A nest or den without a parent present does not necessarily mean the young have been abandoned.
2. Do not hover to see if a parent has come back to its young. An adult animal will not return if people or pets are close to the nest or den. Give the young space and only check back periodically. If you can’t tell if a parent has checked on a nest, place straw or grass over the nest and return later to see if it has been disturbed.
3. Young wildlife should not be handled. Human scent is unlikely to cause parents to abandon their young; however, handling young wildlife and disturbance of a nest can alert predators to the young animal’s presence. Young also may carry disease or parasites they can transfer to people or pets and are capable of biting or scratching.
Dealing with nuisance wildlife
Raccoons, skunks, opossums, squirrels, beavers, muskrats, minks, long-tailed weasels, foxes, coyotes and other wildlife species all have babies, too, and they can become a nuisance.
Landowners or tenants can trap and release these animals on their own property without a permit if they are causing damaging, but that’s not ideal. Prevention is the key to minimizing nuisance wildlife.
If you do find yourself in conflict with an animal, live traps and relocation are a great choice. You can buy live traps for capturing animals at garden supply or home improvement stores.
You must release any animal you catch in the same county, and you cannot keep it as a pet, sell it, trade it or give it to another person. Releasing wild animals on a city, county or state property may be illegal or require written permission. Contact proper officials before releasing wild animals on public property.
Here are a few tips provided by the DNR for limiting nuisance wildlife:
— Pick up dog and cat food at night and keep birdfeeders out of the reach of wild animals or bring in birdfeeders at night.
— Install a commercial chimney cap made of sheet metal and heavy screen. Repair soffits to prevent access to attics and install strong, metal vent covers.
— Prune tree limbs at least 10 feet away from the roof.
— Buy heavy metal garbage cans with lockable lids; otherwise, keep garbage cans indoors as much as possible.
— Install metal skirting around the bottoms of decks.
— Provide shelter structures for fish in ornamental ponds and water gardens, and cover the pond during the night with metal screening.
See you down the trail.
Brandon Butler writes an outdoors column for The Tribune. Send comments to [email protected]. For more Driftwood Outdoors, check out the podcast on driftwoodoutdoors.com or anywhere podcasts are streamed.