- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 5, 2007

The spring’s wildlife baby boom is making summer a bit trickier for animal lovers.

Who hasn’t seen a stray animal, particularly a youngster, and felt the urge to take the little critter home? That’s typically the wrong approach, and it ultimately could hurt or kill the creature.

Laura Simon, field director for the Gaithersburg-based Humane Society’s Urban Wildlife Program, says her office typically starts getting calls about baby animals starting in the spring, and the questions last right through the summer. The recent mild winter meant the phones started ringing in March, Ms. Simon says, adding that the society receives 6,000 such calls annually.

“Mother animals move in and around houses to raise their young,” Ms. Simon says. “Raccoons in the chimneys, skunks under the deck. They’re looking for a quiet, dark cavity to rear their young.

“We afford them a lot of spaces unintentionally, then we get mad at them for being there,” she says.

Some people see tiny creatures and do nothing. Others try to help but end up hurting the creatures’ chances for survival, Ms. Simon says. Too often people see a baby bird on the ground and think if they touch it the parents will abandon it.

“It’s the number one myth,” she says. “They don’t realize birds don’t care. If someone touches their chick, they still want to rear it.”

Other animals are purposely left alone for a spell.

Baby bunnies and fawns are left by their mother for the first three weeks of their lives, she says, but the mothers return three times daily to feed them.

Young raccoons may be adorable, but if they’re fed the wrong diet, the results could be deadly.

“We’ve had some disastrous outcomes from people feeding them the wrong things, like cow’s milk,” Ms. Simon says.

That type of diet can cause diarrhea, which can be fatal for some raccoons if not treated.

Some homeowners humanely trap animals to prevent them from entering their homes or spilling their garbage cans. Ms. Simon says all that does is ensnare or relocate the mother animals, which means abandoned young animals are sure to follow.

“We get hundreds of these tragic calls each season,” she says.

The dangers involved in botched animal rescues don’t apply just to woodland creatures. Touching the wrong animal at the wrong time can hurt the human, says Mary Warren, director of the Colorado Humane Society in Englewood.

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