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Springtime wildlife

Each year I get calls regarding people finding baby animals and asking what they can do to save the baby.

The best thing you can do to help, however, is to leave the animal alone.

Many animals will hide their young for safety, and they will return. Most of the time, those wild animals do not need our help. The most common animals I get called about are raccoons, rabbits, birds, and whitetail deer.

It is very important that, if you find a baby animal, you leave it be. Many different animals may hide their young for safety. Those babies are not abandoned. They simply have been hidden by their mother until she returns. It is best for wildlife to remain in the wild where the animal will have the best chance for survival. Many baby animals will die if removed from their natural environment. Some rescued animals that do survive may become used to people and are unable to be returned to life in the wild. Wild animals can also act unpredictably and can become aggressive, especially as they get older.

Many animals make nests to have their babies in. Around this time of year, watch where you are walking, because you could find a nest.

Cottontail rabbits may have multiple litters per year. A mother rabbit will rarely abandon her babies. She will leave the nest unattended at times so as not to attract the attention of predators. Leave the nest alone, and the mother will return when she feels it is safe.

Kirtland’s warblers are on the endangered species list. Kirtland’s warblers nest only on the ground, near the lower branches, and in large stands of young jack pines that are 5 to 20 feet tall and six to 22 years old. There is a Kirtland’s warbler management area near Clear Lake State Park. During May 1 to Aug. 15, you cannot enter the Kirtland warbler management areas. That is their nesting time.

While it may not seem like an ideal location, urban and suburban yards are safe places for mother mallards to nest. If you have a mallard nesting in your shrubs or gardens, simply leave her in peace and enjoy watching your wild neighbor. Keep dogs, cats, and kids away from the nest, as birds and their nests/eggs are protected by federal law and must be left alone. Momma mallard will be a very quiet neighbor, and, if the nest fails on its own — something that happens regularly — just wish her luck on her next attempt. She will likely sit on her nest for about a month before the eggs hatch and will usually leave the nest with newly hatched ducklings the same day that they hatch!

Another springtime wildlife encounter I get calls on is regarding nuisance bears.

In the springtime, bears will wake up and are very hungry from hibernation. Bird feeders, easily accessible garbage, and even livestock feed are temptations for the bears. To lessen issues, we recommend people taking bird feeders down and locking up dumpsters or placing their garbage inside where a bear cannot get to it.

The most frequent call I get is about fawns. Many people worry because they find them without its mother nearby. That is OK. Leave the fawn there. Mom sometimes will be gone for up to eight hours, but she will come back later in the day. A fawn’s spots are excellent camouflage and it has very little scent, which will help it stay hidden from predators If you find a fawn alone, do not touch it, as this might leave your scent and could attract predators. Give the fawn plenty of space and leave the area quickly.

The best tip I can give is to enjoy the wildlife but keep your distance, and keep in mind that mom will be back for her baby. Also, unless you are licensed, it is illegal to possess a live wild animal in Michigan.

Jessie Curtis is a conservation officer assigned to Alpena County. If you have a question for Conservation Officer Curtis, you can email her at askaconservationofficer@gmail.com or mail them to Ask A Conservation Officer, CO Jessie Curtis, Alpena Field Office, 4343 W. M-32, Alpena, Michigan, 49707.

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