How to Be a Good Neighbor to Wildlife
|Tamarack specialist Mike Becher cares for orphaned opossums.|
Do not keep wild animals as pets.
- Wild animals are severely stressed by the presence of humans. That stress can weaken them, make them sick, or even kill them.
- When purchasing an exotic or wild animal for a pet, make sure that you have investigated the permitting requirements from your wildlife governing agency.
- All wild animals remain wild, even in captivity. Their behavior is unpredictable and potentially dangerous to humans.
- Providing food for wild animals creates dependency, as animals quickly learn where easy food sources are located. They also loose their natural instinct to hunt food on their own. If you regularly feed wild animals, those that have come to depend on your food can be severely deprived and even starve to death if you go on vacation or move away.
- Be consistent in making food available. This includes making arrangements to have your feeding stations stocked when you are away from home.
- The best way to provide food for wildlife is to re-create animals’ natural habitat and to provide natural foods that will be there for them even when you are not.
- Provide good-quality natural foods. Foods like bread crumbs have little nutritional value.
- Do not feed moldy bread to birds, as it can cause them to suffer from an often fatal form of food poisoning called botulism. Do not feed peanuts in their shell to squirrels, this can make them sick because mold can grow between the shell and the nut.
- Keep feeding stations clean to limit the spread of disease among animals. Change water regularly and make sure food does not mold or mildew. Clean bird feeders once a month with a 10% bleach and water solution to prevent disease from spreading.
- It is often tempting to try and care for animals yourself. But wildlife rehabilitation centers use special diets and medical techniques to care for animals. Without the proper training, you can easily harm an animal by providing an unsuitable diet or inappropriate medication. In addition, people who are not properly trained can suffer injury from injured or ill wild animals.
- If you come across an animal that you think may be orphaned, it is often best to leave it alone. Usually the parents of these animals are close by. Wildlife parents often conceal their young during the day while they look for food, returning periodically to feed and check on them.
- It is a myth that a baby animal will be rejected by its mother if it is touched by a human. If you do handle a baby animal, it can be returned to the wild without fear of its being rejected. Baby birds that have fallen from their nests can be returned to the nest without rejection by the parents.
- If a baby cannot be returned to the nest safely, it should be placed in a properly ventilated box. Phone a wildlife rehabilitation center.
- Children are fascinated by wildlife. They must be discouraged, however, from collecting wild animals. As mentioned above, capturing wild animals is dangerous for both the animals and for humans, especially children. A better alternative is to take your children on nature walks and to places where they can observe animals in the wild. Help them to understand and appreciate the right of wild animals to exist in their own natural habitat.
• The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
• The State Game Commission
• Local organizations such as the Tamarack Wildlife Rehabilitation and Education Center