Spring blossoms new life at Fort Belvoir: Wildlife better off left alone
May 31, 2012
FORT BELVOIR, Va. (May 31) -- Now that spring is here in full force, you will be seeing young birds and other infant animals make their appearances in and around Fort Belvoir. While outside, there may be a time when you come across what appears to be an abandoned infant from the animal kingdom. Your first thought may be that the poor creature is lost or abandoned by its mother.
Since we, as humans, have a natural instinct to protect our young we often misinterpret normal animal behavior as abnormal and feel compelled to do something. But what?
You may feel that you should rescue the poor animal. This is not a good idea. Without proper training and permits, you put yourself, and the animal, at risk and inadvertently do more harm than good. As it turns out, more animals die from stress associated with improper handling than survive.
It is common for young birds that are near fledging to fall from the nest if startled, or while learning to fly. The mother is usually able to find and care for them on the ground. In most cases, she will continue to feed the young bird and watch for predators until the young can fend for themselves. A good rule of thumb to follow would be to not interfere, step-back and observe. Most young birds will start practicing flapping their wings and trying to fly once they have developed all of their feathers; however, they may not be strong enough to handle longer flights and will stay on the ground. If you are sure you know which nest the bird came from and it is not injured, it is possible to place it back in the nest. It's a myth that the young bird will be abandoned if the mother smells human scent. Birds, like humans, have a poor sense of smell. If you must intervene, work quickly to replace the bird so you limit the amount of stress it has to endure.
The importance of a non-interference policy is not limited to birds. It is common for other mammal species to leave their young during the day while they forage for food to feed them.
Common examples of this at Fort Belvoir would be a fox or possibly a deer. It is common for a deer to "hide" her young during the day. She has not abandoned them. She is teaching her young an important evolutionary lesson. The key to the fawns survival is to stay completely still because predators are more likely to notice a fawns movements. However, don't worry, the mother is typically just out of sight but may check on the fawn a couple of times a day. Then at dusk she will lead the fawn to a new location. The more interaction a fawn has with humans, the less its chances of survival are. Foxes are also highly active during the day in spring, as they have an increased workload trying to feed the newest members of their Family. As you drive around post you may just be lucky enough to see some of the newest members to these animal families but keep in mind that like human children mammal youngsters have a general curiosity and they may not exhibit normal adult behaviors. Remember these are wild animals and not pets and it should be noted that caring for or raising a wild bird or animal is illegal and requires special training and a permit from the Commonwealth of Virginia.
If you know for sure the animal is an orphan or is injured, contact the Directorate of Public Works, Environmental and Natural Resources Division, at (703) 806-4676.
They will be able to send out people who are experienced in handling wildlife. Remember, these are wild animals and in most cases they are better off left alone.