As the calendar pages fly, springtime’s babies are beginning to be seen throughout backyards all over town. Yet, not all residents are happy about having animal families show up to the bird feeder or the cat food dish left outside.
Animal Control Officer Carolee Mason said, “You will see a lot of strange behavior when animals have babies. You may see raccoons out in the day, but if they are acting fine, moving well, and eating, there isn’t anything wrong with them.”
“People are very worried about rabies, but if the animals are sick, they will look sick,” Kennel Keeper Matt Schaub said.
Schaub and Mason recognized that many of the people who contact them feel disconnected from wildlife, and have been raised to be more familiar with rumors rather than facts.
“People will call us to come and get animals out of their yard. Some of them even suggest we should just shoot a raccoon who is staying on their property,” Schaub said.
Mason offers reassurance to those who are concerned. She said that in most cases, if an animal is left alone, it will move on in no time. However, she did warn that if people leave food out, animals will come around. “If you don’t have a dog, raccoons will feel safe to come around. But if an animal is rabid, you can really see that. If they are grooming themselves and eating, they are fine.”
Mason said that just because a wild animal is healthy doesn’t mean that you should try to hug them. She also warned, “Don’t approach animals in a threatening manner. If you go after it with a stick, it may react. If there is a raccoon in your yard, just go back in the house and it will leave.”
Mason made a suggestion that may become a widely used defense against wild animals. “If they annoy you, play the radio. That is an annoyance to them, and they will leave.”
While raccoons are considered pests by some, Mason suggested that parents make the most of the internet and use animals in the yard as teaching moments for their children. “The internet has so much information. People should let their kids learn as much as they can about the animals.”
Raccoons are not the only unannounced guests that residents may find in their yards.
“If you find a fawn in your yard, even if it is laying down in your garden or right near your house, leave it alone,” Schaub advised.
Mason agreed. “The best thing you can do is leave the babies alone.”
Describing common situations that usually resolve themselves, Mason said, “Deer will leave their babies near the house, because they know predators are less likely to come up to the house and they’ll be safe. The mother may go off for the day or so but she will come back.”
Mason suggested that there was no need to worry about the fawn unless two days go by and the mother hasn’t come back. “If the fawn is getting dehydrated and is crying, then we would come and take it to a wildlife center.”
Mason said that it is always best not to bother the fawn and recalled a time when someone brought a fawn in, and they brought it back to the house. Mason said, “The mother was waiting for it when we got back there.”
“When people call, I tell them to wait a while and if the situation hasn’t resolved itself, call us and we will come,” Mason said, noting, however, that no one has ever called back.
“When you work with animals, we have to act on a case by case basis. Sometimes you’ll see where the animals are staying, and that will be enough for the mother to take the babies and leave.”
Sometimes there are disruptions with even the tiniest of wild residents. Mason suggested that if a bird has built a nest in a precarious spot, the nest can be moved and the mother will return. “Get a basket and put the nest near where it was, in a shady spot. The mother will come back,” she said.
“People think if they touch a baby animal the mother won’t come back,” Schaub said, adding that like all mothers, “They will come back.”
Mason offered one last reminder. “Right now, turtles are laying eggs, and they may lay them in your yard, especially in the mulch, which is soft.”
The eggs may become food for skunks and raccoons, however the tiny turtles are also at risk in the streets. “Please go the speed limit, and if you see something that looks like a small stone in the road, stop and check. If it is a baby turtle, help it across the street.”
Above all, Mason said, “Don’t panic. If you have questions, call us. If people want us to come during the day we’ll come out and monitor the situation.”