Last week, I spent a few delightful hours with Kindergarten students from Gladbrook and Reinbeck. It has been an annual occurrence for I don't recall how many years a lot.
It begins with a trip into the classroom with the fur case. Our fur case contains far too many furs to talk about in one classroom visit. I chose several that I knew would interest them. Of course, we start with the skunk. Parents are good about teaching their young ones about skunks at an early age. They always know a lot about skunks already. The squirt bottle filled with water to demonstrate how far a skunk is capable of spraying is always entertaining and educational though.
I showed them examples of raccoon, fox, coyote, bobcat, otter and beaver, too. This visit is in preparation for their trip the next day to the Grundy County Heritage Museum and Black Hawk Wildlife Area both in Morrison.
In the classroom and again on their field trip, I try to drive home the point that spring is animal baby time. And that every year, I receive calls into the office concerning orphan baby animals that people have found. I ask them to help me tell others that baby animals should be left in the wild.
Over the thirty-four years that I have been with Grundy County Conservation, I have received hundreds of calls in spring and summer from people who find young robins, wooducks, raccoons, opossums, deer fawns and a whole host of other wildlife they believe have been abandoned.
In reality, most young animals found in the wild aren't deserted. Their parents simply are not visible. For instance, a doe will usually visit her fawns only long enough to nurse them. By staying away the rest of the time, they avoid drawing predators' attention to their young.
And then there are baby birds. Birds often grow too large for their nests before they are able to fly. They fall or jump from the nest and the parents continue to bring food for them on the ground until they can fly. If you have a flightless baby bird in your backyard, the best way you help it is by keeping your pets indoors. If a child does bring home a baby bird or rabbit, return the animal as quickly as possible to the place where it was found.
If young are raised in captivity and released back into the wild, their chance of survival is slim. When you remove young animals, they are more likely to die, and it is also illegal. With a few exceptions, wildlife cannot be removed from the wild and kept in captivity. Only wildlife rehabilitators are legally able to possess sick or injured wildlife.
Unfortunately, every spring many young animals do die; victims of predators, inclement weather, or just bad luck. Predators need food to survive, and nature produces more offspring than needed to sustain wildlife populations. Remember, the best way to help these young animals is the same message that I gave my Kindergarten friends - look but don't touch and leave the babies in the wild.