Baby birds on a branch. Alternatives Journal – A\J Photo by Ellen Jakubowski.

The warmer weather is coaxing humans and wildlife alike out of their dwellings and thus, human-wildlife interactions are on their annual upswing. These may include magical moments like listening to a frog chorus, admiring a bush bustling with songbirds, or glimpsing a fawn wobbling along; however, not all human-wildlife interactions have positive outcomes. Here are some tips for navigating sticky springtime situations gracefully.  

Babies by themselves

What happens: Well-intentioned people remove a baby animal from the wild, thinking it has been abandoned when it doesn’t actually need their help. In many cases (e.g. with flightless songbird fledglings), it is normal for babies to spend time on their own while parents forage nearby. Other species (e.g. rabbits) are able to care for themselves from a young age.

Why it’s a problem: Animal parents are the ones best-equipped to care for their offspring; human errors can impair a baby’s physical and psychological development, making it unfit for life in the wild. Handling a wild animal can also result in injury or illness for the rescuer. Finally, bringing these babies to rehabilitators introduces unnecessary time, energy and financial burdens.

Prevention: If you find a baby animal by itself, assess whether or not it needs help before taking action. Toronto Wildlife Centre has created a useful guide for this purpose that covers a range of species.

What to do: Follow these species-specific instructions. If in doubt, call a licensed rehabilitator before taking action – do not try to raise the baby yourself. If you or someone you know takes a baby out of the wild unnecessarily, put it back where it was found as soon as possible and watch from a distance to make sure the parents resume care.

Window strikes

What happens: A bird mistakes a glass window for a clear path and flies into it.

Why it’s a problem: The impact can result in serious injury or death. It is estimated that 100 million to 1 billion migrating birds are killed in building collisions across North America every year.

Prevention: The Fatal Light Awareness Program presents a thorough guide on how to minimize window strikes at your home or workplace.

What to do: If you find a bird that has been injured in a window collision, follow these instructions from FLAP. If needed, you can use this website to find a rehabilitator near you.

Pussycat predation

What happens: A cat attacks a bird or other small wild animal… after being let outside by its owner.

Why it’s a problem: A recent study revealed that cats kill 1.4 - 3.7 billion birds and 6.9 - 20.7 billion mammals a year in the US alone, constituting a major threat to native wildlife populations. Even a small cat bite is likely to cause a fatal bacterial infection. The outdoors is also dangerous for cats; indoor kitties are healthier and live longer.

Prevention: Keep your cat amused indoors, or try one of these strategies for making outdoor playtimes safer. Check out these tips for helping an outdoor cat make a happy transition to the indoor lifestyle.

What to do: If you find an animal that has been attacked by a cat, call a licenced rehabilitator. If you can’t get the injured animal to help right away, let it rest in a ventilated box placed in a warm, dark, quiet area.

…And a couple more

Car collisions: These can be fatal to animals large and small, as well as damaging to your vehicle. Here are some instructions for helping turtles cross the road safely. If you’re in an area where large mammals are abundant, check out these driving tips. And don’t forget to brake for snakes! They like to bask on warm pavement.

Nuisance neighbours: Contending with racoons in the attic or starlings in the chimney is best left to professionals, who can make sure the job is done safely and legally. Many companies, such as Gates and Skedaddle, offer humane wildlife removal services.

A reminder

If you are in a situation that warrants handling a wild animal, remember to put your own safety first. Make sure the area is clear of hazards (e.g. road traffic) and protect yourself from the animal by following the tips at the bottom of this page. Get help if you need it.

Ellen Jakubowski is a former A\J editorial intern with a BSc in Biology from the University of Guelph and a science communication diploma from Laurentian University. She works as an interpreter at the Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory and blogs about animals in The Wild Side.

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