By Cara Fernandes
Wildlife can be found all around us, not just at designated preserves! Learn how to be the best neighbor to wildlife, especially when native animals are most active this spring and summer.
Baby birds are very common to see during the warmer months. If you come across a chick with its eyes closed and no feathers, you can try to place it back in the nest that it came from. It is a myth that birds will reject their chicks if they smell like humans – songbirds don’t have a well-developed sense of smell. If you cannot find the nest, or if the chick is visibly injured, call a wildlife rehabilitator or rescue center near you. Do not feed or give the chick water, as that can cause sickness, death, and get in the way of future treatment if needed. Under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, it is illegal to destroy, relocate, or possess wild birds, their nests, or their eggs. Birds with feathers, open eyes, and a short stubby tail have left the nest and are considered fledglings. Fledglings hop around as they learn to fly and are still being fed by their parents. Although most fledglings will spend their time on the ground, they don’t need any assistance from people. A fledgling only needs the care of a wildlife rehabilitator if it’s bleeding, if it was attacked by your pet, or if there are flies landing on it or surrounding the animal.
Long Island is also home to reptiles like turtles and snakes. Turtle species that spend most of their adult life in the water include painted turtles, snapping turtles, and diamondback terrapins. The females of these species will leave the water in the spring and early summer to lay eggs on land. Picking up a turtle and moving it causes undue stress since humans are very large and scary predators. However, if a turtle is crossing the road you can help by moving it in the direction that it’s traveling. And remember – turtles know exactly how to be turtles! Even hatchlings that emerge in late July to October, born the size of a quarter, don’t need any help to survive. Turtles that live on land, like the Eastern box turtle, might be seen in your backyard or forest. Please remember that it is illegal and inhumane to take any wild animal out of the wild and keep it as a pet. Eastern box turtles spend their life within a mile radius of where they hatch. Therefore, always resist the urge to move a turtle to a “better” habitat than where you find it as they’ll continue to try to find their way home and may perish.
Mammals like white-tailed deer, Eastern cottontail rabbits, raccoons, opossums, chipmunks, groundhogs, and bats all have fur, are warm-blooded, drink milk and are dependent on their parents for care. It’s very normal for some young mammals, especially white-tailed deer and rabbits, to be left alone during the daytime. This is a survival strategy to hide babies from predators. Mothers will return only a few times (usually at dawn and dusk) to feed their young. If a young mammal is crying, bleeding, or if there are flies on or around it, they will need care from a wildlife rehabilitator. Otherwise, mom knows best! Some native mammals have a complex disorder called capture myopathy, which results in death from the stress of being chased or held by a human (especially rabbits). Never try to catch or handle an animal unless instructed by a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. If you do, you run the risk of killing an animal that you were trying to help.
If you suspect that an animal needs help, call a licensed wildlife rehabilitator for advice. Never feed or give water to the animal, never take them out of the wild to keep as a pet, and remember the slogan: “If you care, leave them there!” You can make your backyard safer for wildlife by taking down sports netting when not in use; eliminating pesticides and chemicals, refusing to use glue traps, rat and mouse poison; and using a “frog log” to help animals safely escape your swimming pool. Planting native plants, providing shallow drinking spots, and keeping up trees with cavities or nest boxes makes your backyard even more desirable to wildlife.
We do not treat injured animals at the Quogue Wildlife Refuge, please visit our website to learn of the nearest wildlife rehabilitation center to you.