In addition to baby birds leaving the nest, this is also the time of year that deer fawns are being born. Every once in awhile we will get a call about an "orphaned" deer fawn. Mother deer will stay away from her fawn for most of the day, only coming back at dawn and dusk to feed the youngster. When a fawn is born, it actually doesn't have a scent for about a week after it's born. Mom also stays away from where the fawn rests in order to keep predators and danger away Sometimes when people take a nature walk at this time of the year, they may encounter a fawn, lying quietly in a patch of grass or woods. The spots on the fawn's coat help it to blend into it's surroundings to minimize the danger of being spotted. The best thing to do is just observe quietly and leave the area. It's best not to disturb the baby. Eventually mom will come back to check on her fawn and feed it. She is probably somewhere nearby but not right where the fawn is located. There is a wonderful book called" Lost in the Woods: A Photographic Fantasy" by Carl R.Sams II and Jean Stoick that tells the story of a young fawn who is seemingly lost, but is not. All of the animals who are around the fawn are afraid that he has been lost from his mother, but in the end she comes to take care of her baby. It's a great story to read to children about how wild animals take care of their young.
Tuesday, May 22, 2012
Sunday, May 20, 2012
At this time of the year, many baby animals are beginning to explore the world around them. Up until now, many have been safe in the nest while their parents come and go, much like human parents do as their children grow. Mom and dad or a guardian will go about daily business while the youngsters start to learn skills for becoming adults. In the animal world, it's not uncommon for parents to leave their babies unattended for periods of time while they go out to forage for a quick meal, or just spend time away to keep would be predators from raiding a nest. Eventually the youngsters will leave the nest to start exploring the big world outside. For young birds, there is a necessary period of growth called the "fledgling" stage. This is a time when they are out of the nest and on the ground on purpose to start to learn about becoming a successful adult. They can't quite fly because all of the feathers they need for full flight aren't all there yet. They are usually on the ground hopping around and seem to be injured, but in reality, they aren't. Mom and dad will still come around to check on them occasionally and feed them after they have foraged around for a meal for the fledgling. Often, well meaning individuals will remove the baby bird from it's habitat thinking it's orphaned, but in reality,it is not. If these young birds are picked up and taken away, more than likely mom and dad were hiding in a tree or bush nearby watching what was going on, but were too timid to come out. After all, a big human, even a child-sized human, is quite scary. It's often in the baby's best interest to stay out in the wild where mom and dad can teach it the skills it needs to survive to become a successful adult. Mom and dad will bring the right types of foods and help the baby explore the surroundings of the nesting area. Even though there may be a threat of a wandering cat or dog, or even a curious young person, these babies have a better chance of survival if they left alone so the parents can continue the rearing process. In the case of would be invaders, try to keep the household pets and curious children away from the baby for a bit. In a few days, the young bird will most likely have moved on and your family's normal activities, pets and otherwise, in the yard can resume. The babies on the ground are very much like a human's teenage son or daughter. If you come across a young bird that can't quite fly, it's probably a fledgling and will continue to explore and grow with the guidance of it's parents if left alone. If the baby happens to be in an unfavorable location such as a road or sidewalk, it's perfectly acceptable to scoop up the wayward youngster in your hands and place it out of harm's way in the vicinity where it was found. Birds don't really have a great sense of smell, so by a human touching it to help, that won't discourage the parent from coming down to tend to the youngster after the "threat" of a giant human "predator" has moved on away from the baby. Don't be surprised if when the baby is picked up, there is a commotion nearby as the parents scold from above. Enjoy the moment you took to help the young bird to become an adult by returning it to it's natural habitat where the parents can teach it to grow up successfully.
Monday, May 7, 2012
Fairly recently, the VLM acquired some young opossums from a rehabilitator in Georgia who were nonreleasable orphans. The 2 girls have been out on display and enjoying exploring their new surroundings. Each day in the morning they are put out on exhibit and seem to enjoying moving about and checking out the visitors. They are very entertaining and seem to enjoy playing chase and one of them will occasionally gather nesting material in her tail to carry back to the sleeping log. They are sisters, both about 1 1/2 years old. This is actually getting up there in age for opossums since opossums only seem to have a lifespan of 1 year in the wild. They can live up to 5 years in captivity, but 3 years is about average for an opossum. On a nice day, come by the VLM to see the "new" exhibit opossums. Hope to see you there sometime soon.