Spring has sprung! It is that time of the year when you may have extraordinary nature encounters. Species are mating, species are hatching, the level of fecundity is so high in the Spring you can see the pollen floating through the air. It is also baby animal season, and at the Nature Center we receive many calls about young animals found both on and off the island. While baby wild animals are cute, the best mother is one of their own species, who can teach them how to survive in the wild. If you find a baby animal, for its own good please let it continue on its own way to learning how to survive. You can certainly observe the animal and if it seems injured then please contact the Nature Center, but most likely it is a new animal that needs these important learning experiences at the early part of its life to become a successful part of this ecosystem.
However, if you do find a baby animal that needs help here are some tips. For a baby mammal like a squirrel or raccoon, the first priority is to try to find the nest and return the baby to its parents. The mother will seldom reject a baby just because it has been touched by a human; the maternal instinct is much stronger than that. If the nest is not in sight, give the mother 6 hours to pick up or feed the baby. Keep people and pets away from it so the mother doesn’t get scared off. Some mammals, such as deer and rabbits, will leave their babies alone for as long as 12 hours, returning only to feed the baby. If a baby mammal remains in one place for more than 6 hours, and it’s not a deer or rabbit, call the Nature Center for further advice.
If it’s a baby bird and has feathers, open eyes, and can hop around but not fly, please leave it alone or tuck it into a bush where it is safe from predators. Baby birds that can hop around but not fly are called fledglings. They are learning to fly away from the nest, where predators are attracted by the smell. The parents still provide food at this stage so it is not abandoned. If the baby bird has no feathers, it is called a nestling and must be returned to the nest. If you can’t find the nest or the nest has been accidentally destroyed, please call the Nature Center for further advice.
Baby reptiles (turtles, lizards, snakes, alligators) hatch with fully functional survival instincts and require no parental care. They can be left to live their own cute little life. Please remember it is against federal law to touch or interfere with baby sea turtles. Baby alligators are cared for by the mother ‘gator and should be left alone because mama is very protective of her youngins.