Soon after readers get this issue, babies will be starting to be born . . . baby wild animals, that is. Generally by Valentine’s Day we begin getting calls about baby squirrels, with baby bunnies and opossums to follow. A little later, we get calls about one of my favorites: baby foxes.
In the case of baby squirrels, many of the calls we get are from people who have first discovered an adult squirrel in their attic or crawlspace. If this happens to you or someone you know, please do NOT trap the mom and relocate her. Often, folks trap the momma and set her “free” several miles away, only to hear the scrabbling or cries days later of her babies. Instead of relocating ‘momma’, we recommend disturbing the area in the attic where she is nesting; she’ll quickly realize that the area is no longer safe and will move the babies out. The best case scenario is to have a wildlife cooperator come to your home, remove the babies, install a one way trap, have the momma reunite with her babies and move them elsewhere. The wildlife cooperator will then fix the hole that she got in to your attic in the first place. Any wildlife cooperator, pest control operator or trapper should know that if you have an adult squirrel in your attic it is logical to assume that there are babies in your attic. Don’t let them talk you into expensive repairs without reuniting the parent with the babies! Plus, we don’t want to have to raise those babies! Momma can do a much better job that we can; she has invested a long time in caring for them and it’s not fair to separate them because of your impatience. Rags soaked with Pine-Sol (in a bowl) are a great deterrent in your attic. The same goes for raccoons but they will arrive later in the spring.
After baby squirrels are born, baby rabbits start to appear. The mother rabbit pulls out hair from her chest and makes a shallow depression in your lawn where she deposits the babies. You must NOT relocate this nest; rabbits cannot find their babies if the nest is moved. If you have a dog, place a plastic milk crate on top of the nest, and remove it when you go to bed. The mother rabbit is what is called crepuscular; she only feeds at dawn and dusk. Replace the milk crate back over the nest when you wake up; the mother will adjust to your schedule. Baby rabbits are, in my opinion, the hardest animal to rehabilitate; no one will take a baby rabbit just because you don’t want them in your yard. They will be full grown and can be relocated after only 3-4 weeks, so have patience and enjoy them. And just to remind everyone again, it is a MYTH that if you touch a baby animal the mother won’t take it back. It’s best to not play with them because of the stress potential, but it is a total myth and one that we try to educate the public about.
Finally, think about your wildlife guests and how much you enjoy them! Start planning your garden so you can enjoy the wildlife all year. Plant native plants and you will be surprised at who comes to visit! As always, we are here to help with any solution to any wildlife problem. Call 410.628.9736 for advice.
The Phoenix Wildlife Center, Inc. is a 501(c)3 organization, dedicated to the rehabilitation of native Maryland wildlife, and to education of the public on wildlife issues. We have State and Federal permits to rehabilitate native Maryland wildlife, including bald eagles. If you have questions, you may email at firstname.lastname@example.org or access our website phoenixwildlife.org for information on keeping most wildlife safe until you can take it to a permitted rehabilitator: mwrawildlife.org.