As the weather warms up and new leaves start to grow on the trees, wild animals become very active. Springtime is a great time to see birds returning from migration, animals searching for mates and nesting sites, and the arrival of young.
A wild animal’s chief concern is survival. They need food, water, space and shelter. Any available area that provides these things is an opportunity for them to create a home. In order to happily co-exist with native wildlife so that we can enjoy watching them without creating problems for them or ourselves, there are a few simple things to keep in mind.
The most important thing to remember is that wildlife need very little from us — we must respect their space and do no harm.
Watching native wildlife can be a treat — even in our own backyards! Here are some suggestions for a wildlife-friendly backyard:
- Check for nests before cutting down a tree or clearing brush.
- Place caps on chimneys, vents and window wells to prevent wildlife from falling in or nesting in your home.
- Keep pets under control so that they don’t injure or eat backyard wildlife.
- Keep your pet’s food inside, not outside on porches or decks.
- Keep trash cans locked or inside the garage.
- Demonstrate respect for wildlife and their homes; teach children not to catch or harass them.
- Exercise caution when driving and watch the roadside for wild animals, especially at dawn and dusk.
When at home or visiting the parks, remember to keep animals wild and healthy by not feeding them.
Feeding wildlife creates unhealthy conditions. Animals congregate in areas where they are fed, causing several problems. They exceed the carrying capacity of their habitats and become overcrowded. High levels of fecal matter are concentrated in one area, which causes unsanitary conditions for animals and people. Diseases can be passed from one animal to another when areas are overcrowded.
Foods that are not part of their natural diet (bread, popcorn, shelled corn and cereal) are “junk food” to wild animals. They lack many of the nutrients the animals need in order to stay healthy.
Feeding wildlife causes loss of wild instincts. Wild animals that are routinely fed by humans become habituated to humans for food and lose their healthy fear of them. If you want to help out wildlife, plant native plants and wildflowers that provide nutritious berries and seeds.
If you find an injured and/or orphaned animal, the best thing to do is call a wildlife hotline immediately (Lake Metroparks’ is 440-256-1404 ext. 2131). Injured animals can be very defensive even when they are hurt and weak. When you call a wildlife hotline, you will be given the best and safest information on what to do next.
If you find a young animal by itself that is not injured, please remember that wild parents know what’s best for their young. Animals are often left alone, which is part of their development and how they learn survival skills. We don’t need to get involved! Most young animals don’t have a scent. If the parents have hidden them in the grass or elsewhere, predators will not be attracted to them. The parents will come back for them when it is safe.
— By Tammy O’Neil, Wildlife Care Manager for Lake Metroparks
Each year, Lake Metroparks’ Kevin P. Clinton Wildlife Center treats more than 2,000 injured and orphaned wildlife. Many eventually recover from their injuries and resume their lives in the wild. The center is home to permanently injured Animal Ambassadors including reptiles, mammals and birds of prey. These animals assist staff in teaching about wildlife issues and conservation. Visit the Wildlife Yard to get an up-close look at all of the amazing animals! The yard is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.