Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Wildlife Officials Caution Well-Meaning Citizens to Keep the Wild in Wildlife

In the spring and early summer, when wildlife reproduction is at its peak, you may discover a nest of young birds or rabbits, a fawn or another wild animal with no adult in sight. Enjoy the scene, but leave them alone! Wildlife parents are very devoted to their young and rarely abandon them. If taken from their natural habitat, young animals have little chance of surviving.  

Lake Metroparks' mission at the Kevin P. Clinton Wildlife Center is to relieve the stress of human impact on wildlife populations through human education and wildlife rehabilitation.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), Division of Wildlife staff, Ohio Wildlife Rehabilitators Association (OWRA) members, and licensed wildlife rehabilitators have worked hard to reduce the number of wild animals being picked up by well-meaning people.  Despite their cute and sometimes helpless appearance, wild animals are capable of biting, scratching, and transmitting diseases to humans and domestic animals.

"The Division of Wildlife and wildlife rehabilitators share a common goal to be good stewards and ensure healthy wildlife populations will exist for future generations to enjoy," stated Carolyn Caldwell, program administrator in the Division of Wildlife.
Each year, nearly 2,000 injured or orphaned animals receive first aid and rehabilitation at the Wildlife Center. Patients include backyard wildlife, such as rabbits and songbirds, and endangered species such as the peregrine falcon and bald eagle. Many eventually resume their life in the wild.

Many people believe that they are doing the right thing by rescuing a young wild animal and think that hand raising is a good alternative to being raised in the wild.  This could not be further from the truth as a hand-raised wild animal, even under expert care, has little chance of long-term survival once released to the wild.  Because of the difficulties in providing the proper care and diet for wild animals, only specially trained and licensed wildlife rehabilitators are authorized to take them in when they are found to be truly orphaned or injured.

Wild animals have a better chance of survival if left alone in the wild.  Studies have shown that more than half of the fawns that are taken in by well-meaning people do not survive and most of the remaining animals die shortly after reentry to the wild. Additionally, handling stresses the animal, and excessive handling can make the animal defensive or can ultimately contribute to its death.

A common belief is that once young wildlife has been touched or handled by humans the mother will no longer have anything to do with it.  This is not so, while wildlife officials discourage people from handling wild animals, there are rare occasions when it may be necessary.  If a nestling bird has fallen out of a tree, or your child has plucked a young rabbit from its nest, pick it up and put it back in the nest immediately.  Do not attempt to hand raise it.

"We should always keep in mind that the goal of wildlife rehabilitation is to return native wildlife back to the wild, and that our actions and activities should never jeopardize wildlife populations," said Becky Crow, president of the OWRA. To learn more about the OWRA visit their website at www.owra.org.

Along with the warning to leave young wildlife alone, Lake Metroparks, the ODNR Division of Wildlife and the Ohio Wildlife Rehabilitators Association offer the following advice:

  • Think before you act. Check for nests before cutting down trees or clearing brush. It is best to cut trees and clear brush in the autumn when nesting season is over.
  • Use common sense. If you disturb a nest, replace the animals and the nest material to the original location or as close as possible. If you find a fawn, leave it where you find it. The doe has likely hidden it there and will be returning to feed it, usually after dark.
  • Keep pets under control so they do not raid nests and injure wild animals. Keep pets vaccinated against parasites and diseases.
  • Educate children to respect wildlife and their habitat. Emphasize to your children not to catch, handle or harass wild animals. Practice what you preach!
  • Contact the Lake Metroparks Wildlife Center (440-256-2131), your local wildlife officer or wildlife district office before taking action. Trust and follow the advice of these trained professionals.
ODNR ensures a balance between wise use and protection of our natural resources for the benefit of all. Visit the ODNR Web site at www.ohiodnr.com.

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