Spring Is Coming (AKA Baby Animal Season!)

by Ashley Lema, Wildlife Rehabilitator & Interim Assistant Director of Conservation – Wildlife Care Center

I bet that title sounded really cheerful, but I meant for you to read it with a Game of Thrones “winter is coming” energy. As spring rolls around the corner, we wildlife rehabilitators are bracing for our busiest season! Very soon, our hospital will be bustling for 12+ hours a day, run by a small but feisty team of staff members, and a huge dedicated pool of people volunteering their time to our mission. I can hear the “yum yum yum” of a juvenile crow gobbling up food in the distance now.

The year is off to a fine start, with about 350 animals being seen at our hospital so far, representing about 70 species. But we ain’t seen nothing yet! Our wildlife hotline is getting more and more inquiries every day, and both animal emergencies and coexistence issues are increasing as we have more daylight hours. And while the wild can already be a dangerous place, the way humans have altered the landscape and fragmented the habitat triples the amount of trouble they have to avoid.

April through September is the time we lovingly refer to as “baby season,” and this will be my sixth working at the Wildlife Care Center. I often wonder what other 20-somethings might be doing with this beautiful time of year. But me, I’ll be cleaning endless baby butts and trying to educate the public, and I can honestly say there is nowhere I would rather be.

As an animal lover through and through, my favorite part of the warmer months is the diversity of species we see come through our doors. But also as an animal lover, the absolute worst part is the constant reminder of the impact humans have on the environment and the animals around us. Each time the doorbell rings, I know another bird, mammal, or reptile has been harmed. During the next few months, sometimes that ding-dong is heard over 40 times a day. That’s why it’s imperative that all of us band together to help protect wild families this spring and summer.

Barn Owlet patients at the Wildlife Care Center

Here Are Some Ways You Can Help

    • Keep cats indoors to protect both wildlife and cats: Free-roaming domestic cats injure or kill billions of wild animals a year, and it’s not their fault, it’s ours. They are acting on instinct, not hunger, and this introduces an especially dangerous unnatural predator to our landscape. It also puts cats at risk by increasing threats to their lives, including predators, cars, and poisons. We can protect our wild neighbors and our pets by keeping cats inside.
    • Avoid accidentally kidnapping babies: Not all young animals found alone are orphaned or in need of help. While it might be tempting to intervene when encountering a young animal on the ground, many are simply learning how to fly or explore and are best left alone unless they are in immediate unnatural danger. When in doubt, call us and we’ll help decide if you should intervene or not.
      Be mindful with your yard work: Avoid mowing, tilling, leaf clearing, pruning, burning, and tree trimming. Nests are everywhere, up and down, even on the ground!
    • Brake for wildlife: Young wildlife have no practice at crossing roads. Be patient as mothers cross with their young, or juveniles figure out how to navigate our weird world.
    • Make your windows bird-safe: To prevent collisions, treat your windows with patterned films to make them visible to birds, move feeders to within three feet of windows, and turn off unnecessary overnight lighting to help reduce the impacts of light pollution during migration. Visit our tips page for more details.
    • Keep dogs leashed: Keep your dogs on leash in natural areas so they don’t accidentally disturb nests or chase/injure babies (and it’s also safer for dogs).
    • Don’t use pesticides, rat poisons, or sticky traps: They are inhumane and kill both their intended targets and wildlife who happen to encounter them.
    • Keep the wild in wildlife: Reduce human interference. Let them forage, keep your distance, don’t hover or touch, and respect them. While it may seem compassionate to provide food to baby animals, it can have devastating consequences. Every species has specific dietary needs, even more so during developmental stages, and feeding improper or unnatural foods can lead to severe health issues and even deadly developmental abnormalities. Remember, their survival depends on them learning to find food in their natural environment.

Young wild animals are going to be the most vulnerable to human dangers like outdoor cats, cars, off-leash dogs, poisons/traps, gardening and tree trimming, accidental kidnapping, and the list goes on and on. But people forget that if there are babies, there are also breeding adults who are hard at work, building nests, singing and searching for a mate, hunting overtime to provide for young bellies, and trying to avoid the commotion of a city coming alive after the long dreary months. These wild parents are most at risk to outdoor cats, cars, off-leash dogs, poisons/traps, and windows and outdoor lights.

What To Do If You Find an Obviously Injured, Ill, or Orphaned Animal

The best thing you can do is contain the animal in a securely closed (but ventilated) box and keep the animal quiet and undisturbed until you can transport it to your closest wildlife rehabilitation facility. Do not offer food or water. Bird Alliance of Oregon’s Wildlife Care Center accepts new patients 9 a.m.-5 p.m. every day of the year.

Knowing when to intervene can be tricky, so make sure to contact your local wildlife rehabilitator for advice. Our website has lots of information, and you can also check out our handy “found a baby bird” flow chart to help make the decision! If you are unsure, call and leave a message on our Wildlife Hotline at (503)-292-0304 or email us at wildlife@birdallianceoregon.org, and one of our volunteer Wildlife Solutions Counselors will get back to you.