Babes in the woods
With spring in full bloom, fields and forests are alive with life. Plants are flowering and bees, butterflies and other pollinators are gathering nectar. Birds have started their breeding, and, in many locales, courtship calls fill the air; this is a good time to listen and learn bird calls. Amphibians have already started their courtship calls, and other frog species are soon to follow. Furry critters are also having young now; bear cubs emerged last month with their mothers, and now is the time to keep an eye out for new-born fawns.
Young animals that have made their debut in the last month or so are not as strong as their parents, and not as mobile. With no concept of roads or moving vehicles, newborns are especially susceptible to being struck by vehicles. Aside from that, these youngsters have yet another problem: A well-meaning person may remove a young animal from its environment because it appeared to be orphaned or injured when neither was the case.
Newborn fawns may be left alone because they don’t have the strength to stand or walk. The doe will forage away from her fawns in order not to draw attention to her immobile young. If you spot this situation, keep your distance; the doe will come back to nurse the fawn.
Another case where we need to stand back and let the adults do their job is with young birds that wind up on the ground after fledging. The adults will continue to feed them on the ground until they gain a little more flight ability and follow the parents. Many times—young eagles, for example—are reported grounded or stuck in a bush, only to fly off soon after.
Cottontail rabbits build a shallow nest in the ground for their young, who are left alone for long periods of time during the day. The young are helpless for about four weeks. The mother covers the young with grass while she is away and usually returns at dusk and dawn to nurse.
Many of these young animals may appear injured or orphaned, but it is nature’s method to protect these vulnerable youngsters. Too many young animals are removed from their environment by well meaning people. In some cases, they keep and attempt to raise these babies. This is illegal, and the abducted animal usually suffers from improper diet, which can result in deformities or even death.
If you come across a young animal that you think might be injured or orphaned, just watch it for a while from a distance. If an animal looks injured, call your state wildlife agency, or call a wildlife rehabilitator. Some rehabilitation entities, such as the Delaware Valley Raptor Center in Pike County, work in both states. For NY, you can visit www.bit.ly/TRRnyrehab. For PA, you can visit www.pawr.com.