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Along with spring comes spring cleaning. If you’re feeling like most people you’re probably ready for some spring temperatures and anxious to do some spring cleaning outside. A good place to start is in your backyard. However, keep in mind that you might have some new backyard guests. Sedgwick County Zoo supports Kansas Department of Wildlife & Parks in their efforts to promote a hands-off approach when it comes to wildlife and we want to provide you with the information you need sooner rather than later. It’s common to encounter young wild animals in your own backyard, especially in spring and summer.
Some people have an irresistible attraction to these wild youngsters, and want to take care of them. Every year, the lives of young wild animals are jeopardized by well-intentioned people who take them from the wild believing that the animals are abandoned or orphaned and will die if not given human care. However, the truth is rescuing wildlife from the wild often results in the death of the animal. KDWP gives us five good reasons why people should leave them in the wild: 1. THEY’RE NOT ABANDONED. Bird and mammal mothers will leave their young while they search for food during the day. This is the time when the young are most vulnerable to well-meaning humans. The adult animal is possibly watching and waiting for you to leave so it can return to care for its young. 2. IT’S ILLEGAL. Picking up young animals is against the law. Both the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment have regulations against such activity. Fines can be up to $1,000. State permits are required to legally possess most species of wild animals. For some species, federal permits are required and fines are more severe. 3. THEY MAY CARRY DISEASE. Even though they may look cute and fuzzy, wild animals carry a number of potential health threats. Rabies can be transmitted from a bite or saliva contacting an open wound. Ticks and fleas borne by some animals carry lyme and other diseases. Wild animals may also carry bacteria, roundworms, tapeworms, mites, and/or protozoans that can cause diseases in humans or their pets. 4. THEY’RE NOT PETS. Although young animals may be cute and cuddly, they are wild animals. Many well-meaning people have taken animals home, and then quickly learned that they’re not equipped to handle the animal as it matures. Many people have been injured by animals that initially seemed easily tamed. 5. GOOD INTENTIONS CAN BE DEADLY. Many animals taken into captivity soon die. Those that don’t are denied the opportunity to learn how to survive in their natural environment, so they seldom develop the skills necessary for them to survive when they are eventually returned to the wild. Their ability to find natural foods is hindered, and the natural wariness that is learned in the wild is impaired. Young wildlife raised in captivity often develop an attachment to humans. Upon their release to the wild, they may have little fear of people and return to make nuisances of themselves or put themselves in danger of traffic, or attack from domestic animals. Further, when released to the wild they may be thrust as unwelcome intruders into the home range of another member of their species. And you might relocate an animal with disease into a population that did not have the disease.
Here are some things you can do to protect wildlife in your backyard. Before you mow, especially tall grasses walk the area looking for turtles, toads, or rabbit nests. Turtles and toads can be gently moved along. However, a rabbit nest should be left alone. You can protect the nest and mark it to help you remember not to mow over it. Place a 2’ X 2’ or larger piece of flat wood over the nest, with the wood perched on bricks or other material so that the parent cottontail can get to the youngsters but curious dogs or cats can’t. Be sure to check all limbs before trimming trees. If you accidentally knock a nest from a tree or if it is knocked down by strong Kansas winds the best thing to do is put the bird carefully back into the nest, or shepherd it into some thick shrubbery or other protected space in your yard. The parents will continue to feed and care for the fledgling. Also, keep your dogs and cats away allowing the young bird’s parent to care for it. It is a myth that a parent won’t return to a young bird or nest if it has been touched by humans. To keep birds from flying into your recently cleaned windows you can hang a visual obstruction inside. At the Zoo you’ll see we use dark vinyl wildlife stickers to help the birds navigate around glass panels. If a bird hits your window don’t worry. Often, birds are just stunned from impact; generally, they recover after a few minutes and fly off. What if the parents don’t return and/or the animal dies? However unfortunate this may seem, death is an integral part of our natural world. It may even represent life to another wildlife species which can use that animal as sustenance or to feed their young. Many animals die before reaching adulthood. While it may seem disheartening to see a young animal die, it represents only one individual in an entire population which could not thrive if all young born survived. Now that your grass is mowed, your trees are trimmed, and your windows are clean you can sit back and enjoy the great outdoors. Sedgwick County Zoo wants to inspire you to observe the wildlife in your backyard, but remember a hands-off approach is always best. Please remember, the Sedgwick County Zoo does not currently carry permits for wildlife rehabilitation. However, if you find yourself in need of more information regarding how to deal with wildlife in your backyard or if you need to locate a licensed rehabilitator near you please visit: http://www.kdwp.state.ks.us/news/Other-Services/Rehabilitation
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Open 364 Days a Year!*
*The Zoo will be closed one day only, September 12, 2015 to facilitate the preparation of the annual Zoo fundraiser, Zoobilee. For Zoobilee ticket information please call 266-8APE (8273).