Nature Notes: Old Wives' Tales

A baby blackbird begs for breakfast.

About this time every year, as the young fledgling songbirds begin to grow weary of their confining nests, the phone calls and e-mails start to flood in from people who have found these young pilots on the ground and help! ... what to do?

First we need to debunk the myth that once a person has handled a baby animal, be it a baby bird, deer, bat, raccoon, whatever, that its mom, smelling humans, will reject it. Untrue! There is plenty of evidence to prove that human scent does absolutely nothing to keep mom from doing all she can to rescue her wandering baby.

When it comes to songbird fledglings, they may have simply fallen from a crowded nest and if it's at all possible, it should be returned to the nest as quickly as you can. Mom may be waiting to feed her young bird, and we humans just need to get out of the way. The little bird may just be having a bad day at flight school. If the young bird can flutter fly just a bit, it may only need to be set atop a small tree or bush where mom can easily find it to help with food and flight lessons.

Just like a child lost in a crowd, the young birds will holler for mom to bring food, but we have to get out of the area first before the little guy will feel safe enough to holler for mom.

With young crows, being on the ground is a natural part of flight school, and they should be left alone as their parents are never very far away. But you can really make things easier for them if you will keep the cats and dogs inside when you know there are baby animals on the ground just getting their wings under them.

So the next time you come across a stranded baby animal, take a minute to think about the kind of help it may need. If you can help and it's appropriate, by all means, step in and help. If you think it's best to allow mom to do her thing with her groundling, fine. But if you're not sure, please call us here at the Wildlife Center, and we can advise you about what is the best thing for these little critters. But please remember, if they do need help, DO NOT pass them by if you think the mother will reject them because of being handled. It's just not true.

Oh, and about the letter to the editor calling us a small, one-person operation, well, we released back to the wild over 330 animals last year that we rescued, and we are on course to have even more animals this year. All this done with our own money and on our own time, completely volunteer. I would be very pleased to introduce these "non-believers" to the 75 licensed and permitted wildlife rehabilitators who make up our network here in Washington state, all of whom communicate, transport wildlife, share information and techniques with each other every day. These non-believers simply have no clue.

Don't hesitate to call in if you have any concerns at all about finding baby critters and what to do. We're here to help ... good luck!

• 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.

• High quality photo reprints from Nature Notes can be found online at: www.chinookobserver.info

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