Happy Spring and Baby Wildlife Season!
It finally seems the warmer weather is here to stay after more than a few false starts this year. Reaching 91 one day and then freezing the next. What’s up with that? For a while, it seemed as though Mother Nature herself had contracted the COVID-19 virus and wasn’t quite herself in how the weather bounced up and down for weeks on end early on. One of the strangest Spring seasons I recall in quite a while. But then again, this whole year of 2020 has been something to behold so far, hasn’t it?
I would not want to be in the shoes of whoever Mother Nature ultimately tracks down thru contact tracing as to who gave her the virus, if that is the case. How many remember the old adage — “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature?”
Personally, I have been looking forward to the arrival of Spring since the last Christmas present wrapping hit the floor. And I am not alone. Mother Nature’s critters, huddled in winter dens, have all been awaiting the first warming rays of sunshine, too.
So, let’s talk about Wildlife. The four-legged, feathered, and furry sort mostly, and save Las Vegas, Party Barges, and Weekend Bingo Binges for another discussion and time.
Where I live, we have had a Skunk lurking around the trash cans and smoking area in the rear of the buildings for a while. A Possum, too. It crossed in front of me walking the dog a few weeks ago. Mid-morning, no rush at all crossing the street as if it owned the crosswalk. And it has been sighted again around the area more recently.
Given the old-growth trees around the neighborhood, I would expect to see Raccoons and hear some Owls anytime, as well. I stop and listen when out at night trying to hear or see one. No luck so far, but I have seen bats zipping around overhead from time to time.
And we have countless Squirrels scampering about gathering acorns and other food treats. And a very special little tailless squirrel. It lives nearabout the twin fir trees at the end in the side yard area. I saw him on two occasions last fall scurrying along the curbside of the rear parking lot.
I first became aware of the presence of the tailless squirrel after noticing a scribbled “Reward Note” posted on a Sweetgum tree out front –
“25 Acorns Reward For Information Leading To The Whereabouts And Speedy Recovery Of My Missing Tail.”
The note was signed by “Stubby the Grey Squirrel”.
Assuming the tailless little guy is still anywhere around to be seen now, of course. Being somewhat of an oddity, he may have run off already to join the circus, hit the talk show circuit, or to pursue a movie career with the Muppets in Hollywood. What some see as misfortune, others see as a blessing and opportunity! It just depends on your mindset, I suppose.
As I have advised my friends here in the seniors’ community, there is no reason to be alarmed by any of the little neighborhood critters because they generally do not want to have anything to do with you. But please do not rush out to change your deodorant or take that personally. It is not about “You”.
By nature, wildlife does not want to have anything to do with any other human, either. It’s a survival thing. It seems humans have unfortunately established themselves as a threat in the eyes of most wildlife. Accordingly, practicing the original form of social distancing, they will avoid you at all costs if they can, just as we are the COVID-19 virus at present.
The best thing whenever you see any of Mother Nature’s friends is to simply ignore them and go about your business while they go about there’s. Or simply turn around and go back the way you came. Chances are that once the little guys see you, they will be hightailing it out of there to the safety of a nearby tree or hidey-hole, anyway. Again, they really do not want to have anything to do with you. Trust me, you are not on the menu or in any of our local critters’ food groups, so you can feel pretty safe about that.
The odds of you being chased down and eaten by a chipmunk in the backyard are pretty slim. Actually, the first, last, and only recorded chipmunk attack on a human being was when an exasperated Alvin the Chipmunk allegedly attacked a record producer for not giving him a hula hoop at Christmas. And there are some doubts as to the neutrality and impartiality of the witnesses, Simon and Theodore. In the end, Mr. Seville was not actually eaten and consumed by Alvin anyway, merely bashed and battered around a bit by the disgruntled chipmunk crooner. Just do not promise a hula hoop and then fail to deliver on it, and you should be fine. Chipmunks and other small critters do not eat people. Really, I’ve studied this stuff.
Except, possibly for coyotes. But probably not them, either. Coyotes do not typically attack humans, but as they increasingly spread into urban areas, pets may be at risk. Coyotes may view large dogs as rivals and seek to eliminate them and see small dogs and cats as prey (i.e. lunch snacks). I have neither seen nor am I aware of any coyotes in our neighborhood here, but putting the word out anyway for our dog walker friends to be aware going forward and to keep little Spot and Fido safe, because that is not to say they may not be in your neighborhood. As well as bears, wolves, and mountain lions depending on where you may live. So while not purposefully ignoring those larger guys today, we are mostly just talking about the smaller, everyday, urban critters we encounter more frequently in our neighborhoods.
Otherwise, it is springtime, and springtime in the animal community means “Babies” and the beginning of Baby Wildlife Season.
Wildlife babies of all varieties are either emerging from nests and dens about now or very soon will be. Lots of them. And we all know that a Mother will always stand her ground to protect her Babies.
In the event you happen across a Mother and Babies, the best thing to do is to give them plenty of space no matter how cute they seem, and by all means, do not appear threatening to them. It is best to just calmly and quietly leave the area.
Mother and Babies will move along soon enough so that you can get back to whatever you may have been doing, and everyone can go safely on about their business.
But what to do (or not do) if you come across a wildlife baby and there is no mother around? It depends. The best advice from the National Wildlife Federation is to simply leave it alone.
For most of us, our first instinct may be to “rescue” it. But before intervening and quite possibly interfering, we really need to make sure that the baby truly needs our assistance in the first place. In many instances, it is totally normal for wildlife babies to be on their own. Mother deer and rabbits leave their young alone for most of the day to avoid attracting predators, for example.
If a baby bird is fully feathered, it is called a “fledgling” and it is normal for it to be out of the nest. Fledglings spend several days on the ground hiding in the vegetation until they can fully fly. It is a dangerous time for them to be sure, but the mother bird is usually close by keeping a watchful eye. If you get too close or interfere, you may get divebombed by one or both parents.
On the other hand, if a baby bird is featherless or covered in fluffy down, it is called a “nestling” and should be returned to the nest if possible. Contrary to popular belief, touching a nestling or baby animal will NOT make the parents reject it.
Regarding reptiles – baby snakes, turtles, and lizards hatch from eggs (or are born live in the case of some snakes) and are completely equipped to care for themselves right from the get-go. Simply leave them right where they are and they will be fine without any help.
So again, before intervening in the “rescue” of any wildlife baby, make sure it actually needs help, to begin with. Again, in many situations, it is totally normal for wildlife babies to be on their own. “Rescuing” an animal that does not need rescuing actually decreases its chance of survival, and of course that is the last thing we want.
Though it might seem harsh, the fact of the matter is that it is normal and natural for wildlife babies to be on their own and that in the grand scheme of things, not all wild animals survive to adulthood. A wildlife baby sadly may not make it, but in many instances may end up being the food that allows other wildlife babies to survive. That is the natural way of things. Stepping away and letting nature take its course is usually the best thing to do.
The exception to all this is if an animal is injured as a direct result of human activity – getting hit by a car, attacked by a pet, striking a window, falling from a nest during tree work, or if you have witnessed its parent being killed and know without a doubt that the baby has been orphaned.
At those times, the ethical thing is trying to help, but not necessarily by intervening directly. Contacting a local wildlife rehabilitator or wildlife rescue group should be our first step to provide help because they are trained, properly equipped, and know what to do to provide the best treatment, care, and chances for the animal’s recovery and survival.
And a word about Snakes. Snakes are beneficial because they prey on and keep down the number of real pests and possible disease carriers – Mice and Rats – the most common urban animals whether we like to admit it or not. Yes, mice and rats are likely in the backyard and around the trash cans and dumpsters, too. Snakes help keep mice and rats under control. That is a good thing.
The scary thing would be if there were no snakes at all. For example, snakes play a major role in controlling the spread of Lyme Disease by preying on the mice and rats who play host to the ticks that spread the disease. If snakes all disappeared, Lyme Disease would rapidly become much more prevalent and more widespread. And that is merely one example of the importance of snakes.
With the rising temperatures, you may see a snake basking and warming itself in the sunshine. Again, not to panic. If you see or unwittingly disturb a snake – simply move away quietly and let it be. Snakes, like all critters, do not consider humans a food source so have no reason to bother you unless you give it one and they feel cornered or threatened with the need to defend themselves. They merely go about doing their jobs as Mother Nature and God intended.
But, a necessary word of caution. Being reptiles, with warmer weather upon us snakes will be more active, and it must be said that a few are venomous. Again, they do not want to eat you and should not bother you unless you provoke or give them a reason to. Or, startle them and catch them by surprise.
So when working in the garden or out and about, it is best to be aware and alert to their possible presence.
Snakes and all of the other wildlife have every much of a right to be here as we do. Maybe more. They were here first, after all.
“Live and Let Live” is the best policy for snakes and all wildlife.
So, as you are out and about enjoying the beautiful Spring and Summer weather to come, please be aware of the miracles and wonders of nature surrounding you where you live. Simply stop, listen, and be aware of the moment.
And, please do not leave food out for or feed local wildlife. They have a natural role to play in nature and must be allowed to do that. Foods that we leave out or unsecured garbage in trash cans is not their natural food or healthy, and it frequently ends badly for the animals as they suddenly become classified as “pests” to be eliminated.
It is best for all not to do it. Wildlife will do much better on its own being allowed to simply function as Mother Nature intended.
Possums, Raccoons, Skunks, Groundhogs, Squirrels, Chipmunks, Rabbits, Snakes, Turtles, Moles, and Deer (and Mice and Rats, too), not to mention the wondrous varieties of birds, all call our neighborhoods home and raise their families right alongside us. They are out there. And if we are mindful, we can enjoy all of the local wildlife and live together in Peace. I encourage you to venture outdoors, take a walk, and breathe the fresh air. Take a break from the daily news and avail yourself of the beautiful World and Wildlife surrounding us.
If you would like to learn more about what to do if you do find baby wildlife, please visit The National Wildlife Federation for more information, specific to each species.
When outdoors, please keep your eyes and ears open and listen for your local wildlife neighbors because they are all around you whether you see them or not!
And for Bigfoot. Always Bigfoots. Because like UFO’s and ghosts, we never really quite know for certain, do we?
Please remember that wearing a mask when in public right now is not solely about protecting ourselves, but moreover a showing of respect and concern for those around us, a way of protecting them. And that is a very simple and kind thing we all can surely do for each other.
Because we truly are all in this together.
Thanks for visiting with us today! Best wishes and health! — Jim (and Red!)
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