February is the month when we show love to those who are important to us. Here are some ways to show love to the wildlife in your local neighborhood:
1. Provide a habitat that is welcoming to wildlife.
You can attract wildlife to your property by ensuring the environment is welcoming to the animals. One way to accomplish this is by growing native plants in your garden. Native plants will attract an assortment of pollinators including bees, butterflies, and birds, which will in-turn make your garden thrive. Native plants can also provide food and shelter for other wildlife. Recommendations for native Illinois plants to attract wildlife can be found here: https://extension.illinois.edu/blogs/good-growing/2022-09-15-attracting-wildlife-native-plants
It is also important to note that pesticides can be deadly to many of our wildlife species, including our pollinators. It is best to limit pesticide use and avoid application of any pesticides to plants when any animal or insect is nearby. The US environmental protection agency lists a variety of resources to assist in reducing pesticide impacts on animals. More information about this can be found here: https://www.epa.gov/safepestcontrol/tips-reducing-pesticide-impacts-wildlife
Another way to welcome wildlife to your neighborhood is to have bird houses on your property. This can be a great opportunity to provide shelter, warmth, and nesting options for the birds near you. The National Wildlife Federation has recommendations on how to choose the right bird house here: https://www.nwf.org/Magazines/National-Wildlife/2010/Best-Bird-Houses
2. Do not feed wildlife
It can be really tempting to feed wild animals, especially the cute opossums or raccoons that
may show up on your back porch. However, we strongly advise you not to do this. This is because when a human feeds a wild animal, the animal then becomes unafraid of human interaction. This loss of fear can lead to dependency on humans for food instead of hunting for the food themselves. If the human then moves away from that location, they have left the wild animal with the inability to fend for itself, making it an easier target for predators. Additionally, a loss of fear in humans, leads wildlife to move into suburban areas where there is increased motor vehicle activity and more chance of an animal being hit, which leads to an increase in wildlife injury and death.
Bird feeders are the one exception to this. These feeders can be beneficial to birds, especially in extreme temperature changes when resources may be scarce. However, it is important to be sure to clean your feeder frequently and ensure that there is no current outbreak of Highly pathogenic avian influenza in your area; doing so can prevent the transmission of infections to other birds in your area.
3. Leave the animals alone.
If an animal is not injured or obviously orphaned, it is always best to leave the animals alone. This may occasionally be difficult to determine depending on the species, especially since wildlife animals like to hide any signs that they are sick or injured. Besides obvious signs of injury like “hit by a car,” and “visible blood,” an animal may show less obvious signs that they may be sick or injured including:
– The animal is not able to perform its normal behavior. Hawks are supposed to fly, and squirrels are supposed to easily climb trees. If the animal cannot do these normal actions, then they could be sick or injured.
– The animal is not afraid of humans and doesn’t evade capture. Wild animals are fearful of humans because they view us as predators that they need to escape from. Usually this means that the animal won’t be in the same location as humans; they will prefer to be as far away as possible from human interaction. If an animal is not showing fear of you when you approach it or if you see an animal in an area closer to humans, this could be a sign of sickness or injury.
To the untrained eye, it may also be difficult to determine if a baby animal is orphaned. One thing to keep in mind is that every species interacts with their young in different ways and at different times of the day. Therefore, just because you don’t see the mom, doesn’t mean the animal is an orphan. For example, mother rabbits will only return to the den twice a day- once in the morning and once after dusk. If you find a rabbit den filled with babies, it is best to leave the babies alone, unless injured, and observe to see if mom has returned later in the day. This can be done by placing leaves or twigs over the den; if mom has returned, you will notice that the leaves have been disturbed.
For more information on what to do if you find an animal in need, visit our website at https://vetmed.illinois.edu/hospital/wildlife-medical-clinic/resources-wildlife-fun-facts/. We are also available via phone or e-mail if you have any questions about a potential orphaned or injured animal. Please feel free to reach out to us at the Wildlife medical clinic via phone at 217-244-1195 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. One of our volunteers will be able to answer your questions and advise on the best plan of action for the animal that you found