June is one of my favourite times of year — a time for animal babies. I don't mean kittens and puppies (although they're cute, too). I'm referring to goslings and ducklings, fawns, even baby skunks.
An up-close encounter with a baby wild animal may not start on a good note. But by following a few simple guidelines, you can keep the "wild" in wildlife.
If you find an orphaned baby bird
Look up. Young fledglings (not naked but well-feathered) often fall from their nests when learning how to fly. Spending a day or two on the ground isn't unusual. Leave the little bird alone. Its parents are probably keeping a lookout. If you suspect its in danger from prowling cats or speeding cars, put it back in the nest. Don't worry. Unlike baby mammals, your scent won't bother mom and dad birds. Unsure if it's truly orphaned? Call your local wildlife rehabilitation centre:
- Wildlife Rehabilitators Society of B.C. (e.g., Wildlife Rescue in Burnaby)
- Toronto Wildlife Centre
- Wildlife Rehabilitation Society of Edmonton
- The Hope for Wildlife Society in Seaforth, Nova Scotia
If you find an injured animal
If you come across a sick or injured wild animal, don't try to capture it. And don't pet or talk to the animal either. That just creates more stress. Call the closest wildlife rehabilitation facility (see the short list above). Their trained staff can provide humane care to injured, orphaned, sick, and distressed wildlife. About 80 per cent of the time, wild animals turned-in have been hurt by human activity, such as collisions with cars or power lines, or encounters with cats and dogs. Never handle a wild animal if it puts your safety at risk.
Keep your cat from injuring wild birds
Being a trained ornithologist is one way to help protect birds. But successful bird conservation can start at home. Own a cat? They aren't as innocent as they look. Nature Canada estimates that 140 million birds and small animals are killed each year by — you guessed it — your cats. Many pet owners choose to keep their cats indoors for this very reason. Outfitting Fluffy with a bell is one option, but it's rarely works. Keep cats indoors during sensitive times like the bird-breeding season.
Maybe you're interested in volunteering for a rescue or rehabilitation facility? I did. I had such rewarding experience at the Strathcona Raptor Shelter. Where else can you help nurse wildlife back to health AND release a Great Horned Owl back into the wild?
How have you helped sick, injured, or orphaned wildlife?
Lindsay Coulter, Queen of Green