Ask A Rehabber: Small actions, big impact -- Ways to help wildlife

Posted 3/11/20

Installing nest boxes provides shelter for wild animals like squirrels and helps keep them out of your attic or garage. by Rebecca Michelin One of the most common questions we are asked at the …

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Ask A Rehabber: Small actions, big impact -- Ways to help wildlife

Posted
Installing nest boxes provides shelter for wild animals like squirrels and helps keep them out of your attic or garage.

by Rebecca Michelin

One of the most common questions we are asked at the Wildlife Clinic is what individuals can do to support wildlife living in their community or their own backyard. Unless they are clearly in distress -- ill, orphaned, or injured -- individual animals usually don’t need us to directly intervene in their lives.

Many of the recommendations that can be found on the internet are well-meaning but ultimately ill-advised, and some common suggestions can in fact unintentionally cause more harm than good. The best things we can do to help wildlife are often indirect, small actions that can have a large impact.

Shelter

Late winter and early spring are prime nest-building time for many mammals, so it is essential to secure your house and other buildings now to prevent issues with wildlife seeking safe places to make their homes. Taking action to close holes, put wire mesh around decks and foundations, and put animal-proof covers on vents will prevent the harm that often comes to animals that try to share living spaces with people.

When possible, providing alternate or natural housing options for wildlife can be very helpful and prevent a lot of problems. If you have space on your property, leaving rock piles, dense shrubs, and dead trees in place provides natural shelter options for a wide variety of animals. Alternatively, if you know that you have animals who like to live in your attic or shed, installing a nest box nearby can give them the shelter they require so they don’t need to come into your home. 

Food

Feeding wild birds is a much-loved pastime, but some common habits can inadvertently cause serious harm and illness. For responsible bird feeding, make sure to clean feeders regularly, ensure they are properly installed at a safe distance from windows, and offer a variety of high-quality food items.

For myriad reasons, we do not recommend feeding wildlife other than birds. If you have pets that you feed outside, consider feeding indoors instead. If that’s not possible, feed only during the day and remove food after an hour or so to avoid attracting wildlife. When wild animals and pets congregate near food sources, there is a much higher risk of the spread of parasites like mange and diseases such as rabies and distemper.

The best way to “feed” wildlife is by making sure there are plenty of natural food sources available. Take action to support the preservation of natural, wild habitats in your community. Plant a wide variety of native plants that bloom from spring to fall as many flowering plants will then provide seeds later in the year. Fruit and berry bushes are an essential food source, and provide shelter from weather and predators at the same time.

Remember that wildlife aren’t living in urban environments because they want to, they are here because they have no other choice -- we’ve taken away much of their natural habitat. They are doing their best to learn how to get around in our environments, and we can’t expect them to change their behavior to suit us. Humans have the capacity to adapt and evolve much faster than other animals and we also have the ability to understand the impacts of our actions, so taking these small steps can make a huge difference to the wildlife who share our spaces.

If you have wildlife questions you would like answered, please submit them to wildlife@schuylkillcenter.org. If you find an injured or orphaned animal in need of assistance, please call the Wildlife Clinic at 215-482-7300, option 2.

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