How to Help Wildlife

What can I do to help wildlife?

Visit our Helpful Resources page to help you learn how to manage immediate and longer range concerns with wildlife.

Here are some of the easiest and yet the best things you can do to help wildlife:

  1. Keep your cats indoors. Cats are not natural predators. They are second only to habitat destruction as the leading cause of the decline in songbird populations. Many animals come to us after being attacked by cats. Due to the infectious nature of cat bites most of these injuries are fatal. In addition, being outside is not good for the cat either. They are in danger of being hit by cars, poisoned and in general live shorter lives. It is a myth that if a cat is well fed or wearing a bell it will not hunt or be able to catch anything. Belled, well fed and even declawed cats are still able to catch and kill many birds and small mammals. Visit www.abcbirds.org/cats for more information.
  2. Cover your window wells. Many creatures fall in window wells and either die or are injured in the fall. Some are trapped there until they starve to death. An open window well creates a hazard for humans and pets as well as wildlife.
  3. Other than bird feeders do not feed wildlife. Wildlife will reproduce based upon the food sources available. If you are feeding wildlife you are creating unnatural food sources and encouraging potentially dangerous interactions between humans and wildlife and between wildlife itself.
  4. Clean your bird feeders. Keep your bird feeders as clean as you would a pet’s food dish. Dirty feeders can cause the spread of contagious diseases. We see outbreaks of conjunctivitis yearly among songbirds as a result of dirty bird feeders.
  5. Never release a domestic animal to the wild. These animals are unable to care for themselves. They will most likely starve to death or be eaten by a wild predator. If they are lucky enough to survive they can potentially cause a biologically destructive situation by interacting with a wild population.

I love to go to the river and feed the ducks and geese; what should I be giving them?

NOTHING! Feeding the ducks and geese is one of the most common problems we see. There are a few reasons why this is bad for them. First, unnatural food, such as bread can become impacted in the bird’s digestive system and cause death. Second, when you feed the waterfowl it brings large numbers of animals competing over a food source within a small area. This in turn causes increased, unnatural aggression between individuals. We have seen many animals come in that have been attacked by others. They are usually very severely injured and most have a slim chance of survival. Also, most animals will reproduce based upon the food sources available. Temporary artificial food sources, such as recreational feeding of the ducks and geese can cause an increase in numbers that the environment can’t support.

I found baby bunnies in my yard. Are they orphaned?

A mother rabbit leaves the nest during the day to avoid attracting predators, so babies that are alone during the day are not necessarily orphaned. Due to their extremely high stressed nature, these mammals do not do well in rehab. They are often “bunnynapped” with good intentions of saving babies that appear alone. If you are unsure about whether or not a nest you’ve encountered has orphans:

  • Stick Test: Carefully place two small sticks in a crisscross pattern over the nest. (Take a picture to confirm the way it was left.) If they have been disturbed in some way the next day, it is likely that mother returned at night to feed them.
  • Belly Check: If you don’t think the sticks were moved or you still have doubts about the mother, gently pick up one or two babies and look at the belly. If the bellies are rounded and not sunken in at the sides with visible rib bones then they have milk in their bellies – LEAVE THEM. They may be checked again the next day. Bring them to a rehabber ONLY if the sides of the belly appear sunken in or the skin dehydrated (does not immediately stretch back if gently pinched).
  • Have pets? If you have dogs that are attracted to the nest then you may cover the nest during the day with something such as a laundry basket secured by a heavy rock or brick. Don’t forget to remove the cover at night so that mother can get back in and feed the young.

Fox Valley will NO LONGER accept healthy baby cottontails unless there is proof the mother is deceased. Not only is it unlawful to remove healthy wildlife from their habitat but their care takes time away from the ill, injured and orphaned.

I saw a hawk on the ground. Does it need help?

  • Is it young and featherless? If it is completely featherless (only covered in down with NO visible feathers) then they may need to be brought in for care. Please call us if you are unsure; we may able to look at pictures to confirm before the bird is removed. If the bird is uninjured, Fox Valley works with tree climbers to renest fallen baby birds so they may continue to be cared for by the parent. It is always their best chance for survival.
  • Is it young but has feathers? If the bird has feathers (may still have a lot of fluffy down, but wings and body have some feathers) they are considered “branchers.” Like fledgling songbirds, they are supposed to be on the ground; the parents will continue to feed them. Leave them alone. If you are unsure, please call us. We may able to look at pictures to confirm.
  • See also: I Found a Bird – Now What
  • Is it an adult that is upright? A hawk that is perching on the ground does not necessarily need assistance. A hawk that is on the ground but upright may have caught prey. In this case, leave the bird alone and wait at least a half hour to see if the hawk is in the same location. A scared hawk may leave its prey which is a waste of effort and energy for the bird as well as an unnecessary loss of life of the animal.
  • Is it an adult that is lying down? If the bird is lying down on its side or back, have a closer look. The bird may have suffered any number of injuries, requiring assistance. If the bird is unable to take flight away from you or there are visible injuries, carefully capture the bird and secure it for transportation. If available, use gloves and a blanket or towel to handle and secure the bird. When possible, place the bird in a box or cage so that it cannot move around much (to avoid further injury) or see (to avoid further stress).