Protect wildlife babies during spring clean up
Throughout the spring, summer and early fall of each year, Sierra Wildlife receives large numbers of orphaned or injured baby birds, rabbits, squirrels, raccoons, foxes, opossums, skunks, fawns and other animals displaced or injured by property clean-up efforts.
This month, a squirrel’s nest fell due to tree-trimming; the terrified mother squirrel ran off and did not return. Fortunately, the babies survived and are in the care of an SWR rehabber — little orphans who would have been better off with their mothers, though we do the best we can for them. The homeowners who orphaned the babies were very upset and concerned for the babies, and we appreciate their contacting us. They said they hadn’t even thought about possible nests when they trimmed their trees.
SWR urges foothill residents to become more aware of your wildlife neighbors as you begin tree-trimming, brush clearing, shrub pruning, lawn mowing and garden-and-deck tidying. Delay tree-trimming and mistletoe removal until late fall through January to avoid harming baby birds and tree squirrels who nest in them. Most tree squirrels build nests in conifers, oaks and even fruit trees, as high up as 60 to 80 feet, sometimes using mistletoe as a base for the nest. Some squirrel and bird species also nest in tree hollows, in tall bushes, in brush piles and under the eaves of houses; squirrels may also nest in wood piles.
Jackrabbits keep their babies in shallow depressions in fields where they may be run down by mowing or plowing vehicles; while brush rabbits and cottontails prefer dense brush, including your brush pile. Foxes, coyotes, raccoons and skunks prefer to den in hollow tree trunks or culverts, under logs, rocky outcroppings or, sometimes, buildings. Waterfowl often lay their eggs under bushes and shrubs around lawns. Fawns are hidden in tall grass by their mothers, who may leave them for several hours to forage.
You can clean up property in a way that will get the job done, but avoid harming nesting wildlife. If you must trim or fell trees in spring through early fall, ensure that you or your workmen carefully check beforehand for bird or squirrel nests on branches, in mistletoe and in tree hollows. It is not only harmful,but illegal to remove songbirds’ nests or eggs. Check small portions of brush piles at a time for nests, and move each portion to another site before burning. Be sure to look carefully under shrubbery where you plan to mow and over the rest of the area for nests or dens before disturbing it.
If you find wild critters nesting under your roof, in your attic, or denning under your house or other buildings, please just wait a few months before removing a nest or den or repairing any openings, or call Sierra Wildlife for advice. Most animal families will move on once the babies are old enough to travel, so be sure that all the animals and their babies have vacated the nest or den before disturbing it.
These simple efforts can save compassionate homeowners a lot of heartache, and help to preserve the precious heritage of varied and abundant wildlife cherished by all of us who live in the foothills.
You can call Sierra Wildlife Rescue, at (530) 621-4661 for more advice from experienced rehabbers on how to avoid harming animals during property clean-up, or if you find an orphaned or injured wild animal.