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  • Writer's pictureJeanne Christie

Reflections on Helping “Stranded” Wildlife

Updated: Jul 19, 2022

When I find a bird or animal that seems to need assistance; I think before I act.

First, I remind myself that most of the time the best strategy is generally to leave them alone. Close encounters with wildlife often occur in the spring when young animals are leaving their nest or den. Birds can be awkward when they first leave the nest. They can flutter, but not fly.

Young mammals may appear to be unattended and in need of assistance. Many of us have scared a fawn in the woods with no does in sight.

Recently on a walk we found a baby porcupine.

Very cute! But not needing our help.

It's tougher to leave them alone when there is imminent danger, for example in the middle of a road. Earlier this spring I found a small snapping turtle motionless in the middle of a two-lane street.

I picked it up carefully. It was not happy! And carried it to some water 30 feet away where it slid beneath the water and into the mud. Did I help it? Only if I took it to its destination. If I returned it to its starting point, then it might venture out on the road again.

Later in the year, I found a much larger snapping turtle in a field. No danger for it here! I left it.

If an animal is someplace dangerous; I’ve herded it to a safer place. But that is not always the problem.

One time there was a blind sparrow under our bird feeder. We trapped it and I contacted someone, likely the local animal patrol, and they directed me to a vet that cared for small injured wild birds.

From him, we learned we needed to clean the bird feeder regularly. The blindness was likely the result an infection picked up at a dirty feeder.

Some wildlife is best avoided like a skunk that my dog and I encountered on our daily walk this spring.

You have to use your best judgement in each situation. Leaving wildlife to themselves in the wild is almost always best unless there is imminent danger that you can safely avert. Even then, recognize that if you do something; you will likely not know if you made it better or worse.

Generally, it is best to observe a wonderful moment with the more than human world and move on.

May the forest be with you!

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