Wildlife rehabilitator Trish Marki knows her phone is going to start ringing more frequently this time of year, as the weather warms and animals become more active in developed areas.
Marki works for North Country Wild Care, a nonprofit group that assists wildlife rehabilitators in the Capital Region. The organization has received more than 10,000 calls this year regarding potentially injured and invasive animals, most of which were found in residential areas.
However, because of a lack of education regarding animal behavior patterns this time of year, a substantial number of those calls were either false alarms or resulted in situations that could have been easily prevented.
Trish Marki of Saratoga Springs feeds her chicken Chickie on Thursday afternoon. (Erica Miller)
One family brought Marki what they thought was an injured red-tailed hawk, for instance. It turned out to be a healthy chicken.
“The most important thing we can do is educate,” she said.
Here are some tips for anyone who encounters these common species in a backyard:
After a fawn is born, its mother searches for a safe location to leave it so she can search for food for both of them. These safe locations are commonly in backyards, causing people to think the animals have been abandoned. Most of the time, the fawn’s mother is just sneaking in and out of the backyard without the residents noticing.
If you see a fawn in your backyard, don’t be concerned unless it is sleeping on its side, crying nonstop, or there are flies gathering around it. Do not bring a fawn inside, as the domestication of deer can cause problems for both deer and humans. Also, do not move a fawn from its original spot, as its mother may not be able to find it. If you find a fawn alongside a road and feel that it is not safe, move it within earshot of its original location.
Rabbits: Similar to fawns, if you find a nest of baby rabbits, it is unlikely they have been abandoned. A mother rabbit will return twice a day — once at dawn and once at dusk — to feed her young. If you find a rabbit’s nest, do not move it even as little as three feet in any direction. Mother rabbits are not able to find their young if they are moved from their original location. After the rabbits have left the nest, you can plant onions or sprinkle powdered red pepper around the area if you don’t want them to return.
Foxes will often create dens under sheds. Some residents are worried about baby foxes, called kits, attacking small children. However, as adult foxes weigh only 8 to 12 pounds, they are not a threat to humans.
Though foxes are normally nocturnal, if they are out during the day at this time of year, it does not necessarily mean they are rabid. They are often awake during the day to feed their young.
If you do not want foxes living under a shed, do not try to trap them, as adult foxes are too smart to be trapped. Instead, call North Country Wild Care’s hotline for nonviolent tips to encourage foxes to relocate their dens.
Contrary to popular belief, if a baby bird is seen on the ground it does not always mean it has fallen out of its nest. Young birds spend about a week on the ground learning to fly. Unless there is a noticeable problem, it is best to leave the bird on the ground. It’s most likely supposed to be there.
Bears: Bears will often come onto domesticated land if there is an available food source. If this happens, the first thing to do is to remove food sources such as garbage cans, bird seed and pet food. It is also important to clean off barbecue grills after each use.
In addition, do not add meat scraps, bones, or melon rinds to compost piles. If you live in an area with a high bear population, you might want to invest in a certified bear-resistant garbage container
It is possible for humans and coyotes to exist in the same area as long as the instinctual fear that coyotes have of humans is maintained. Similar to bears, do not feed coyotes. Remove all available food sources and attractants. If you see a coyote, yell loudly and make yourself as large as possible by raising your arms. Another typical concern regarding coyotes are pets. Coyotes, along with bobcats, raptors, and foxes, will kill cats. To ensure your cat’s safety, keep it inside or only allow it outside with supervision. Visit the Department of Environmental Conservation’s “Tips to Eliminate Wildlife Conflicts” for more information.
North Country Wild Care’s hotline is 518-694-6740. The regional DEC office is also a resource. In addition, “Animal Help Now!” is a smartphone app that uses your phone’s location to direct you to the most appropriate help for animal emergencies.