Keep wild animals where they belong
The spring nesting season has reached its peak.
During the past few weeks, I’ve been observing a pair of wrens build a nest and start raising their young in one of our birdhouses.
The pair was quite noisy as they celebrated the first exciting weeks of domestic bliss together. But the eggs have hatched and the young’uns are making the racket now, begging for food from sun-up to sun-down. I’m sure the parents wouldn’t mind a little break.
I get quite a chuckle watching the hapless parents return to the nest every few minutes with another meal in tow. My kids gave me the birdhouse a couple of years ago, and until now we hadn’t had any birds take up residence. It’s a large, ceramic owl and the entrance to the interior is through the
It’s no surprise we haven’t had any takers then, because in the wild, small birds normally try to avoid big predators like owls. Much to our delight, these wrens have decided the owl is the perfect place to call home, though.
While birds are busy nesting, many other wild animals are starting to welcome their young into the world.
Late May to early June is the prime birthing season for white-tailed deer in Southern Maryland. If you spend a good deal of time outside, you might encounter a baby deer, called a fawn, during your adventures. Many times people assume they have found an orphaned deer. But this is almost certainly
never the case.
During the first few weeks of a fawn’s life, the mother deer, called a doe, keeps the baby hidden on the ground in a field or forest, reuniting only a couple of times a day to nurse. The mother keeps her distance most of the time, although she’s usually within a hundred yards of her fawn, keeping watch for predators and an attentive eye on her baby.
While fawns are almost odorless, adult deer give off a strong scent that can alert predators to their location. The doe will forage for food nearby and sleep apart from the fawn to keep the defenseless baby safe.
Fawns instinctively curl up and lay motionless wherever
their mother leaves them. Mother Nature, that wise old gal, gave baby deer spots for a reason, and not just to make them cuter than they already are. Those spots help fawns blend into their surroundings, mimicking the sun-dappled areas of the ground in the field or forest where the baby is hidden.
After a few weeks exclusively nursing and staying camouflaged on the ground, fawns will begin to follow their mothers on foraging trips and eventually, after two months or so, are fully weaned and living on a plant-based diet just like an adult deer.
Many deer pass through our neighborhood. he first few summers in our house, I viewed them as a nuisance. They would eat every single one of my beautiful hosta plants down to mere nubs in a night.
I tried all sorts of deterrents, including an effective putrified liquid rotten egg spray. Once dry, the smell is undetectable to the human nose, but deer can still smell the offensive odor and won’t eat the leaves
that have been sprayed with it. I’ll warn you, though, your neighbors aren’t going to want to be outside when you’re squirting that stuff around your yard.
Early one morning I happened to see the culprits that ate my hostas out my front window. A mother deer and her two fawns cautiously crossed the neighbor’s front yard and slipped into the woods beyond.
As I was turning away, a slight movement caught my eye and I spied a third fawn stepping out from the bushes, following its mother and siblings into the trees. I
never sprayed the plants again and didn’t bat an eyelash the morning I discovered that all the gladiolus blooms and leaves were completely eaten and only bare stalks were left behind.
By this point, I was a mother myself, and knew three mouths were a lot to feed. The doe and her fawns were welcome to find a meal in my yard. I saw the same doe again the next summer with three more fawns, but that was the last time. Deer usually stay in the same general location where they were born, so the doe must have moved on to God’s
greener pastures after that.
It’s a rare sight indeed to see triplet fawns. However, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services, twin fawns are very common. Triplets occur when the mother is older and if good-quality habitat and food resources aren’t available to sustain a healthy deer population.
Interestingly, biologists have discovered that in twin and triplet sets of white-tailed deer, the fawns are often sired by different bucks. That’s not an unusual phenomenon in the animal world. If you’ve ever seen a litter of kittens or puppies and the offspring look like they are various breeds, that’s because they probably are.
Spring is a very busy season for wildlife. Although well-intentioned, interfering with Mother Nature almost never ends well for the animals. It’s difficult to provide the complex balanced nutrition necessary for young animals to develop properly, and they can’t learn essential survival skills without a parent around.
Wild animals that are released from captivity rarely live past a few months in the wild. Keep wild animals where they belong — in the wild.