Most of the animals that are permanent residents of the Chattanooga Arboretum and Nature Center have suffered from injuries or problems caused by humans. Since most people try to avoid causing harm to other living things we decided to put together a list of things to do- or not do- to help wildlife. The list is in no particular order of importance.
- Prevent your pet cats and dogs from attacking and/or “playing with” wildlife. Don’t allow them to run without supervision and raise your cats as indoor pets. Many injured animals are brought to the clinic each year with terrible wounds from dog and cat attacks.
- Alert birds to large expanses of glass in your home, such as patio doors or picture windows, by hanging streamers, putting bird silhouettes on the glass surface, or allow the glass to be a little bit dirty. Reducing the reflection should cut down on the number of birds who collide, often fatally, with windows and doors.
- Educate children to respect and care for all wild creatures and their habitats. Children need to learn that wild animals are not playthings and should be allowed to go about their lives without being touched by humans. Children should also be told not to destroy nests, burrows and other wildlife homes.
- Pick up litter and refuse that could harm wildlife, including six-pack connectors (after cutting each circle to reduce the risk of entanglement), monofilament fishing line, and watch batteries (if consumed by waterfowl they can cause mercury poisoning).
- Be alert when driving, especially near wildlife refuges and in rural areas, to avoid hitting or running over wild creatures. Animals do not recognize the danger from an oncoming vehicle. And please stop and move any turtles away from the roadway or shoulder of the road.
- As a general rule, leave infant wildlife alone, since they are not always truly orphaned. A parent may be nearby or will return soon. Be sure they are in need of help before you remove them from the nest area. If you find young birds on the ground, attempt to return them to the nest.
- Place caps over all chimneys and vents on your roof to prevent birds, ducks and raccoons from taking up residence and becoming a nuisance or getting trapped.
- Do not leave fishing line or fish hooks unattended or lying about outdoors. Try to retrieve any kite string left on the ground or entangled in trees.
- Before mowing your lawn or rototilling your garden, walk through the area first to make sure no rabbits or ground-nesting birds are in harms way. Remember, it only takes a couple weeks for these babies to grow and leave the nest. Be tolerant and give them the time they need.
- Check trees to make sure there are no active nests or residents of cavities before cutting them down. Even better, avoid cutting down dead trees if they pose no safety hazard, since they provide homes for a wide variety of wildlife.
- Use non-toxic products on your lawn and garden.
- Motor oil should not be left in oil pans unattended. Birds often fall into these pans and few survive.
- Do not attempt to raise or keep wildlife yourself. Not only is it illegal, but wild creatures do not make good pets and captivity poses a constant stress to them. Young wild animals raised without contact with their own species fail to develop survival skills and fear of humans, virtually eliminating their chances of survival in the wild.
If you find an injured or abandoned wild animal, please contact a licensed Wildlife Rehabilitator.