When visiting at the Duck Pond Wildlife Rehab Center a couple of weeks ago, I asked Don Cote if he had any thoughts about what we should submit for the April column. Without missing a beat, he said spring is the time we need to alert people that not all young animals that appear lost or orphaned actually need to be rescued. So, as in the past, I’m going to use Carleen Cote’s words of wisdom from many years ago:
“With the return of warmer days, our feathered friends are returning from their southern hiatus, and native wildlife are becoming more active. This is an appropriate time for a reminder about whether or not young wildlife that appear to need rescuing really need human intervention.
“White-tailed fawns are often rescued when they should be left where they were found. A very young fawn will not move until given a signal from its mother. It has no odor, so if it is found by a dog, coyote, or other potential predator, it’s by accident, not from a scent. The doe does not remain with her fawn(s) at all times; she leaves to feed herself and may not return for several hours.
“If you’re walking in the fields and woods and spot a fawn, don’t immediately assume that it needs to be rescued. Mark the spot where it was seen and leave; return after a few hours or the next day. If the fawn is in the exact same spot, it’s probably safe to assume something has happened to the doe. Contact a game warden or rehabber and follow the advice given.
“If you find a young bird on the ground and no nest is found, make a substitute from a berry box or basket; be sure there are holes for drainage and hang it in a tree close to the spot where the bird was found. The adults will respond to the feeding calls of their youngsters. If cats are prowling or stalking birds, especially when there may be young birds in a nest that can’t survive without being fed, the cat should be confined rather than removing the birds. Fledglings – young birds that are feathered and out of the nest – need time to master the art of flying. Though they may spend time on the ground, this is not necessarily an indication they need human intervention. Observe whether there are adult birds flying around as they could be the parents, bringing food to the young or coaxing them to take their first flight.
“Of course, there are times when rescue is necessary such as when an adult female has died, but her young survive, or when young animals have been observed for some time with no adult arriving to care for them and lead them to safety. If you do rescue wildlife, as cute as they may be, bring them to someone who has the necessary permits and knowledge to give them a greater chance of survival. If you’re in doubt about the need to rescue any bird or animal, or have questions about the critters we enjoy and for which we are concerned, please call a local rehabber or warden.”
Don plans to continue to gradually keep admissions and long-term residents at a more practical number by transferring many rescued critters to other rehabbers who have generously offered to assist in their care. Please check these websites to see if there is a rehabber closer to you to help make critter care at Duck Pond more manageable: www.mainevetmed.org/wildlife-rehabilitation or www.maine.gov/ifw/fish-wildlife/wildlife/living-with-wildlife/orphaned-injured-wildlife/rehabilitation.html – Donald Cote operates Duck Pond Wildlife Care Center on Rte. 3 in Vassalboro. It is a nonprofit State-permitted rehab facility supported by his own resources and outside donations. Mailing address: 1787 North Belfast Avenue, Vassalboro, ME 04989. Phone: (207) 445-4326. Please note that the prior email address is not being monitored at this time.
—by Jayne Winters, Natural Resources Council of Maine member from South China, Maine
Critter Chatter also appears monthly in the Town Line newspaper.