2014-06-18 / Columns

Driftwood Outdoors

Handling Contact With Wildlife
by Brandon Butler

Know How to Handle Wildlife Encounters

Wildlife encounters are always exciting. Whether you stumble upon a nest of baby birds or have to flush a troublesome raccoon from your garage attic, close contact with wildlife provides a thrill. Knowing how to deal with wildlife when encountered is critically important. It could mean life or death, for them.

Dealing with Baby Deer and other Young Critters

Finding a fawn burrowed in tall grass is wonderful, but don’t touch it. That fawn has not been abandoned. The mother is nearby feeding, or attempting to steer you clear of her young.

According to the Indiana DNR, “It’s common to see fawns by themselves. A mother deer will leave a fawn during the day, both to look for food and so her scent doesn’t attract predators to the fawn, which is nearly scentless. People often mistake a fawn as abandoned when, in fact, it is being properly cared for by its mother.”

If you mess with the fawn, the mother may not come back. Just leave it be, and mama will come back to care for her baby. Picking up a baby animal that is not orphaned or abandoned can harm the animal and takes it out of its natural environment. It’s also illegal.

“Most baby animals are not abandoned,” said Michelle Cain, DNR wildlife information specialist. “Many animals leave their young alone when searching for food and come back to them throughout the day. They also use this as a way to deter predators because a predator may follow the mother back to its young.”

If you are certain a baby has been abandoned, or you know that the mother is dead, call a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. Licensed wildlife rehabilitators are educated to properly care for wild animals. Rehabilitator contact information can be found on the DNR website, www.in.gov/dnr.

Dealing with Nuisance Wildlife

Raccoons, skunks, opossums, squirrels, beavers, muskrats, minks, long-tailed weasels, foxes, coyotes and other wildlife species can become a nuisance. Hoosier landowners or tenants can trap and release, or kill on these animals own property without a permit if they are causing damaging, but that’s not ideal. Prevention is the key to minimizing nuisance wildlife.

If you do find yourself in conflict with an animal, live traps and relocation are a great choice. You can buy live traps for capturing animals at garden-supply or home-improvement stores.

You must release any animal you catch in the same county, and you cannot keep it as a pet, sell it, trade it or give it to another person. Releasing wild animals on a city, county or state property may be illegal or require written permission. Contact proper officials before releasing wild animals on public property.

Here are a few tips provided by the DNR for limiting nuisance wildlife:

•Pick up dog and cat food at night and keep birdfeeders out of the reach of wild animals or bring in birdfeeders at night.

•Install a commercial chimney cap made of sheet metal and heavy screen. Repair soffits to prevent access to attics, and install strong, metal vent covers.

•Prune tree limbs at least 10 feet away from the roof.

•Buy heavy metal garbage cans with lockable lids; otherwise, keep garbage cans indoors as much as possible.

•Install metal skirting around the bottoms of decks.

•Provide shelter structures for fish in ornamental ponds and water gardens; cover the pond during the night with metal screening.

See you down the trail...

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