Nature Notes: It's baby critter season!

Nature Notes: It's baby critter season!

From the sumptuous forests, lakes and prodigious wetlands of the inner Peninsula to the lush green margins of the bay, and all along the length of our wide, windy and truck-strewn beaches, young animals of all kinds are being born, some learning to fly, others taking their first wobbly steps.

It is no news to any of us that with more and more people moving to this little piece of heaven, our many beautiful and fragile wildlife species will face increasing difficulty with their parenting duties as their space, their habitat, their only home, grows smaller each season.

Parenting for these animals is tough enough even in the best of conditions. The law of survival keeps the growth rate for most species very low, and anything or anyone making their job even a little bit harder risks causing these animals to fail as parents.

Case in point. A little short guy up the block from the Wildlife Center decided that a whole swath of beautiful wild habitat from the highway to the beach dunes should look like a golf course fairway, so he mowed it all to the ground. Because it's now mid-May, the brush is full of birds' nests, pheasants, ducks, quail, grouse, sparrows, towhees, robins, small snakes, insects of all kinds, actually the whole complete food chain. Everything that was provided by Mother Nature, gone and at the prime wildlife season! It requires absolutely nothing at all to be completely out of touch.

There are many different things we can do to help ameliorate some of the pressure on these wildlife parents, and providing food and water is an excellent place to start. Wildlife parents use 100 percent of their reserves raising a family so providing clean fresh food and water really makes the difference. Providing cover, nesting boxes, feeding stations and secure areas (no trespassing signs) goes a long way towards the success of wildlife families.

It seems only fitting that if we are going to remove so much of these animals' homeland habitat, we could at the very least help them with the basics.

If you or yours find an injured animal or a young critter perhaps orphaned or sick, gather it up, place it in a secure box away from young children and pets and call us here at the Wildlife Center. We are able to save, treat and ultimately return to the wild most of the animals we receive, thanks in large part to all of the caring people who believe that wildlife should be given every opportunity to survive - so do we.

If you come across young seal pups on the beach, you must not disturb them. Please don't try to put them back into the water, attempt to feed them or in anyway try to rescue them (fishermen shoot seals everyday, but you will be fined for trying to help?!). YOU CAN help these babies by protecting them from beach drivers (two seals so far this year!) by placing driftwood or such nearby the pup so they have some small measure of protection. Call in the animal's condition and location to us, and we will contact the marine mammal stranding network and the Marine Fisheries agents. If a rescue is needed, they will be dispatched.

If you see anything that looks like harassment of these wildlife babies, please get license plate numbers, descriptions, etc. Call it in and together we can protect our remaining wildlife (24-hour toll-free Wildlife Harassment Reporting (800) 283-7808).

• Check out our new weekly nature movie at: http://home.pacifier.com/~sparks/wildlife!!.html

• Craig Sparks is director of NAWA, a filmmaker, freelance writer and wildlife rehabilitator.

• Found injured wildlife? Questions? Call the Wildlife Center at 665-3595 or send an e-mail to: sparks@pacifier.com.

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