Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Spring's Lesson on Wildlife

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Spring's Lesson on Wildlife

Article excerpt

Naturalist Jan Syrigos had to perform a balancing act of sorts recently. She had to balance compassion with reality in handling the first of many calls this spring about "orphaned" wildlife.

Syrigos works at Runge Conservation Nature Center in Jefferson City. The call came from a woman who was sure a young fox squirrel in her back yard was in trouble.

"She told me she was sure the mother had been run over by a car," said Syrigos. "She hadn't seen the adult in several days, and the little one was making distress calls in the nest."

Syrigos coaxed a little additional information from the caller. The "baby's" eyes were open, and it was fully furred. Moreover, it had been out of the nest, to the bottom of the tree and back to the nest again.

"Most likely the female was weaning the little one," said Syrigos. "I think she was just done with it and had left."

Still, it took tact and persistence to convince the caller that she should let the little squirrel fend for itself.

The Missouri Department of Conservation receives hundreds of calls each spring from people who find birds, raccoons, opossums and a variety of other juvenile wildlife "abandoned." MDC biologists say that in most cases nothing is wrong, and human intervention is inappropriate.

Birds often grow too large for their nests before they are able to fly. They fall or jump out, and parents continue to bring food for them on the ground. "Rescuing" a young animal from this situation is likely to result in its death.

Most people aren't equipped to supply young animals' dietary needs. And removing an animal from the wild - even if you return it later - increases the chances its parents won't be able to find it.

Similarly, people who report "orphaned" fawns may not understand that white-tailed deer don't stay with their young 24 hours a day. Quite the contrary, fawns spend most of their time alone until they are old enough to keep up with their mothers. This protects fawns - which have practically no odor of their own - from being detected by predators that scent the doe.

The rule that wildlife usually is better off if you leave it in the wild works in reverse. …

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