Spring last month, and Sierra Wildlife Rescue has already received several baby squirrels and several baby birds who were the “victims” of spring clean-up.
The squirrels’ nests fell due to tree-trimming, while the terrified mother squirrels ran off and did not return. Fortunately, most of the babies survived and are in the care of SWR rehabbers — little orphans who would have been better off with their mothers.
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 by property clean-up efforts. 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 to January to avoid harming baby birds and tree squirrels who nest in the trees throughout the spring and into through early fall. Most tree squirrels build nests in conifers, oaks and other trees as high up as 60 to 80 feet, sometimes using mistletoe as a base for their nests. Some squirrel and bird species nest in tree hollows, in tall bushes, in brush piles and under the eaves of houses.
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.
If you find wild critters nesting under your roof, in your attic or under your house wait a few months before repairing any openings. 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. 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.
These simple efforts can save compassionate homeowners a lot of heartache, and help to preserve the precious heritage of varied and abundant wildlife.
For more information attend “Living with Wildlife” on March 31 to learn how to protect your homes and property without harming wild animals. Contact Barbara at (530) 621-2650 to register. You can also call Sierra Wildlife at (530) 621-4661 for more advice from experienced rehabbers.