It is said that springtime represents new beginnings. In the wild, that phrase translates to newborns as many animals give birth to their young at this time of year. In the spring In the spring months, some of the most common patients CROW officials see at the hospital are baby birds when many species – including common grackles, northern mockingbirds and mourning doves – have begun to hatch.
According to Dr. Malka Spektor, CROW veterinary intern, statistics show that approximately one quarter of CROW patients taken in during the past month were baby birds. Unfortunately, many of these young patients (either newly born nestlings or fledglings that are still developing wing feathers) should not be patients at all because they are not injured or orphaned.
They are mistakenly brought to CROW or a drop-off site when they are found on the ground. These young birds are still dependent on their parents yet are grounded when they either fall from their nests, drop during flight training or their nests get blown out of the trees.
CROW officials call these birds and other baby creatures “abducted animals.” With a little effort, a “lost” bird can often be returned to the nest by the person who finds it without it having to make a trip to the Sanibel clinic.
“We call patients abducted when they are healthy and have parents, but are taken out of the wild and brought to us because people think they are orphans,” said Dr. Spektor. “When we can, we will try to ‘re-nest’ them.” If You Care Leave It There is a CROW program developed by Dr.
Heather Barron, CROW’s hospital director, in an effort to reduce the number of abducted animals entering the clinic. The program offers a brochure that allows one to be educated on the difference between orphaned and abducted and what one can do once faced in a possible “rescue” scenario.
“If You Care Leave It There is a program to educate the public that a wild animal baby will do best when left in the wild. Often times, the parents are not at the nests all the time; often baby birds will fledge and be on the ground, with their parents around to keep an eye on them, even if you don’t see the parents,” said Dr. Spektor. “We want to make sure the babies we get are true orphans, not abducted from their parents. If there is an obvious injury, or if there is no sign of the parents – signs are different for different species – then they should be brought in, but always call first and we can explain what to look out for.”
According to the brochure: “Humans are never a young animal’s best hope for survival. They are its last hope. A young animal should only be removed from the wild after all avenues to reunite it with an adult animal are exhausted.” Within the brochure, Dr. Barron offers information that everyone must adhere to: “If you happen to see a young, wild animal, please leave it alone unless there appears to be something wrong – a clear injury or a fallen nest."
“If the nest has fallen out of a tree but the young inside the nest appear healthy, please replace the nest in the tree as high up as you can reach. If this is not possible, consider placing the nest in nearby bushes or even nailing it to the side of the tree in an area where the young will have some shade and shelter from the elements. If the nest itself is missing or damaged, an artificial nest may be created.” The educational program appears to be working. Dr. Spektor stated that approximately 20 to 30 percent of these young patients are abducted, which is down from 80 percent before the program was implemented a couple of years ago.
To become better educated on If You Care Leave It There, pick up a hard copy of the program brochure at CROW’s Visitor Education Center at 3883 Sanibel Captiva Road or click here to view it online.
CROW Case of the Week stories are written by Bob Petcher and appear weekly in the Island Sun and River Weekly Newspapers.