-Sam Webb, Wild Wise Sooke
With “baby season” beginning in the early springtime, by the time fall rolls around, most wild animal babies should be relatively self-sufficient. They now have to be strong enough to sustain themselves over the winter or strong enough to migrate long distances. The fall can be a real critical time in a young animal’s life as they begin to navigate the world without any parental support.
Unfortunately, not all animals make it through their first fall. Raptors like owls and hawks now must hunt for themselves. This can prove to be quite challenging and they often become emaciated from unsuccessful efforts. They may become more desperate for meals and have less energy to spend meaning they may choose to eat roadkill. This puts them at an exceptionally high risk of being injured by a vehicle. In fact, wildlife such as owls, deer and rabbits are more susceptible to roadside injuries in the fall. High traffic hours of the day in the spring and summer may be in daylight but in the fall and winter, your daily commute may be in darkness. More hours of darkness means more hours of low roadside visibility.
Deer may start to look thin and develop diarrhea. As tempting as it may be, it is best not to intervene. Due to the deer’s sensitive GI system, introducing food can end up doing more harm than good – please do NOT feed wildlife. Despite seeming relatively comfortable in our presence as they walk across our lawns, confining an adult or juvenile deer can have extreme biological effects that can be detrimental to their health. As a prey species, they often deteriorate quickly while in “care” this makes rehabilitation efforts difficult if not impossible. Even if it was possible to relieve them of the current condition they are suffering from, the risk of them fatally injuring themselves due to stress if often a risk that professionals, for the sake of the animal, will not take. Reaching out to professionals can help assure you that monitoring is the best thing to do for these deer. Keeping track of movements, body condition and foraging behaviour will help us determine the health of the deer and likelihood of it surviving the winter.
The same advice goes for wildlife across the board, healthy, injured or sick- DO NOT FEED WILDLIFE. Every species has so many different considerations whether it be the season, their age, their health etc.
Re-feeding syndrome, for example, is a great example of where well-meaning people make the wrong decision. Let’s say someone has just tragically hit an owl with their car, they notice it is quiet and not flying away. They take it home and try to feed it something- they don’t realize that this owl is a young owl who was on the side of the road because he was failing to thrive, he likely has head, physical and internal injuries that they are unable to see. He was starving and quickly ate the easy meal they offered him. Because he was emaciated, his body was starting to shut down- this means he was not biologically ready to have a meal like this. Unfortunately, refeeding syndrome is fatal. A professional would have the tools and abilities to assess this patient, the situation and create a plan that gives him the best chance at survival. Please leave feeding and treating wild animals to the professional.
For more information please reach out to Wild Wise at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Sam Webb – Community Coordinator
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