Springtime brings an abundance of wildlife. With a rise in temperature, many animals come out of winter hibernation. Here are three easy ways you can help and enjoy the wildlife in your backyard this season.
1. Leave Baby Animals Where You Find Them
Mother knows best! Baby animals are very difficult to care for and most wildlife rehablitators recommend that you leave wild animals where you find them. Most baby animals that appear to be abandoned, are in fact being cared for by their mothers. Deer commonly leave their fawns in wooded areas and only visit a few times a day. Rabbits only visit their nest two or three times a day. Another common myth is that if you touch a baby bird, their mother will smell your scent and abandon their nest. Aside from some large birds of prey, most wild birds actually don’t have much of a sense of smell! If you see a baby bird on the ground, you can place the baby back in the nest.
Of course, there may be a time when an animal does need your help. Some circumstances where you may need to intervene:
If an animal appears injured or sick (i.e., obvious signs of injury, visible blood, or limping)
If an animal is stuck or in an unsafe situation (i.e., trapped in a fence, stuck in the road)
If you suspect a nest has been abandoned
For rabbits, you can leave two sticks in the shape of an X over the nest. If it is not disturbed for over 12 hours, then it is best to call a wildlife rehabilitator.
If you find yourself in a position where you are concerned about the well-being of a wild animal, please contact your local wildlife rehabilitation center. It is best to leave the care of wildlife to the professionals!
2. Provide Nesting Materials
Springtime is when most wild birds in North America begin to build nests in preparation for hatching young. You’d be surprised to find you have many household items that would work as nesting materials for birds! Yarn, cloth strips, wool, and even dog fur (that has not been treated with flee and tick prevention) are great options. You can also gather natural materials from your yard, such as grass clippings and twigs. Click here to read my tutorial on how to make a DIY nesting material craft.
3. Get a Birdhouse
Whether you choose to purchase a bird house or decide to make your own, bird houses provide a safe environment for birds to nest and raise their young. There are a few key things you can do to make your birdhouse habitable.
Your birdhouse should be located in a quiet area of your yard that is unlikely to be disturbed.
Make sure the hole is a small enough. A larger hole means potential predators can make their way in. About two inches in diameter should be the perfect size.
The birdhouse should be raised off the ground at least five feet.
I hope you enjoyed these tips! For more information on how you can help wildlife in different seasons, check out the links below.
I first learned about prehensile tail porcupines when I was sixteen. I was on a class trip to Busch Garden’s where my classmates and I got to spend three days working behind the scenes in Tampa, Florida with the zookeepers. The keepers had this critter perched on a wooden platform where people could come up and pet it. I was reluctant, thinking the quills would be painful to touch, but they actually weren’t that bad! The featured photo on this post is from that experience (please excuse me while I cringe over that picture!) I later worked with these guys again at my internship at Wildlife World Zoo where I managed to snag a few of the quills they shed for a scrapbook.
Overview of the Species
Prehensile tail porcupines are very unique looking. They almost remind me of a cartoon character. Their bodies are covered in short black and white quills that defends against predators. They also have a velvety soft nose and a prehensile tail for which they were named. This tail is made up entirely of muscle and is used as a fifth limb to assist in navigating their habitat as arboreal animals (tree-dwelling) in South America.
The prehensile tail porcupine is classified in the rodent order by scientific taxonomy, according to the Smithsonian’s National Zoo. They traditionally weigh about four to eleven pounds and are approximately twelve to twenty-four inches in length. This species of porcupine is nocturnal and an herbivore, consuming any vegetation easily found in treetops. Females reach sexual maturity around nineteen months and can continue reproducing until about twelve years of age. Babies are born with soft quills in order to prevent injury to the mother, these quills harden within an hour after birth. The baby prehensile tail porcupine also has the ability to climb immediately after being born. The average lifespan of a prehensile tail porcupine is twelve to seventeen years.
Fortunately, the prehensile tail porcupine is well adapted to fend off potential threats from predators! They stiffen their quills when threatened, but no species of porcupine can shoot their quills out of their body which is a common misconception. However, porcupines do shake their quills in order to intimidate potential predators which is most likely where the misconception originated. This porcupine does have some natural predators, such as large birds or big cats native to South America. Sometimes the porcupines forage for food on farms and are potentially hunted and killed by humans. As of right now, the prehensile tail porcupine is listed as least concern according to the Cincinnati Zoo.
**This post was previously published on the author’s former blog**
When I was a teenager, I decided I wanted to become a vet tech. I always loved animals and I was interested in medical care. However, I didn’t want to go to eight years of school and I knew that vet techs only required an associates degree. Even though I had decided on this career, I didn’t quite know what a veterinary technician even did. Once I did my research, spoke to people in the field, shadowed a tech, and looked into degree programs, I became an expert on what a vet tech is. Although I eventually learned, many people today still don’t even know we exist, and if they do, they don’t understand what a vet tech is, what our job entails, or how much work we do to care for their animals. If I had a nickel for every time someone asked me if I was a veterinarian when I told them what I do… So I decided that I would take it upon myself to further educate those who aren’t quite sure what a vet tech is, and hopefully help people gain a whole new respect for those in this field.
Providing food for wildlife has its pros and cons. Leaving food for small backyard animals during the cold months when food may be scarce is a great way to help maintain wildlife populations. However, you also don’t want to overfeed wild animals, as they will become dependent on people and be less efficient at finding food themselves. You also run the risk of attracting pests into your home. This how-to guide gives some pointers on how to safely provide food to wildlife.
I’m often asked about my many unique experiences I have had with animals over the years. I’ve been fortunate enough to have lots of animal interactions from a young age. Such as growing up visiting my grandfather’s farm, to volunteering at animal shelters, interning at veterinary hospitals, volunteering at a wildlife rehabilitation for birds, and of course my two-month internship at Wildlife World Zoo, Aquarium, and Safari Park in the summer of 2016. If I had a nickel for every time someone exclaimed “ugh I am so jealous of all the cool animals you have gotten to interact with.” I would have enough money to buy my own giraffe (which I would not recommend, giraffes are smelly!) However, most people don’t realize that you don’t need to have an animal related education or career to have the experiences I have had. In fact, there are many ways that you could start volunteering, interning, or even find a job in animal related career today! I have compiled a list of helpful hints, tips, and ideas below. Check ‘em out!