Tuesday, May 24, 2005

This time of year, area wildlife managers are asking suburban and rural residents to be extra mindful of young wildlife. The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF), for example, says whitetailed deer fawns and baby rabbits are showing up in yards and fields, and the first thing some people want to do is help.

Don’t go near them, pleads the VDGIF. In almost all cases, the best assistance you can render is to leave them be. Otherwise, you might inadvertently lead dogs to the hidden youngsters. Fawns, born from April through July, are frequently left alone by their mothers to avoid leading predators to their location. The mothers will return several times each day to move the young or feed them.

Yes, it’s a normal human reaction to want to come to the aid of a creature that appears to have been abandoned, but usually that’s not the case. Even if it seems the deer or cottontail rabbit offspring was abandoned, it most likely wasn’t. A doe (the name applies to deer and rabbit females) will leave its young alone for periods of time while looking for food, but she will return.

Virginia wildlife officials say if a fawn or rabbit has been “rescued” when it shouldn’t have been, it often can be released at the same location. Parents tend to remain in the area for at least a day looking for their lost youngsters.

If a wild animal has been injured or truly orphaned, you can locate a licensed wildlife rehabilitator by calling the VDGIF dispatch at 804/367-1258 (24 hours, seven days a week) or visit the VDGIF Web site at dgif.virginia.gov.

Raising a wild animal in captivity is illegal unless you have a special state permit. More importantly, each animal’s nutritional, housing and handling requirements are specific. Feeding the wrong food to a fawn can make it sick and possibly lead to its death. For example, cow’s milk will induce severe diarrhea in fawns.

Even under professional care, the survival rate of rehabilitated fawns and other wild animals is low.

Sea gull control to begin — From Virginia Beach, the Associated Press reports that state wildlife managers plan to kill a number of sea gulls this week on the south island of the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel to reduce traffic safety problems associated with the increasing bird population.

In addition to shooting the birds, the hired managers will coat remaining gull eggs with vegetable oil, a process called addling, which suffocates the chicks before they hatch.

Thousands of herring gulls, laughing gulls and black-backed gulls have taken up residence on the tunnel island, where they prey upon a smaller and more fragile population of common terns and black skimmers.

Eradication efforts will be conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services Division under a contract with the Virginia Department of Transportation. The VDOT has reported occasional collisions between cars and frantic birds that have hit windshields, startling drivers and raising the risk of accidents. Also, baby gulls like to roost near the entrance of the tunnel and can fall into traffic lanes, causing motorists to swerve or run over the fledglings.

Transportation officials called the plan to kill many of the larger gulls a last-ditch effort, following years of less aggressive, unsuccessful campaigns.

CCA/Maryland helps police — The Maryland chapter of the Coastal Conservation Association has donated three Pentax spotting scopes with tripods and six quality Pentax binoculars to the state’s Natural Resources Police. The equipment is valued at more than $3,200 and will enable NRP officers to conduct surveillance operations for fishing violations on Maryland’s tidal waters.

“This equipment will not only help us target fishing violations but safe boating violations and criminal activity on Maryland’s waterways,” NRP Lt. David Larsen said.

With recreational saltwater anglers as its primary members, the CCA is a nonprofit organization that advises and educates the public on marine resources conservation. For details, visit its Web site at www.ccamd.org


• Trout Unlimited chapter meets — June2 at the McLean VFW Post 8241. The public is invited to this meeting of the Northern Virginia Chapter of Trout Unlimited as the group’s Tom Guffain will provide information on where to fish for trout. Information: www.nvatu.org.

• NRA Game Calling Challenge — June 3-5, at the National Rifle Association headquarters in Fairfax. In the NRA Great American Hunter’s Game Calling Challenge, all the competitors are required to imitate the sounds of at least four of seven species selected for the contest, including whitetailed deer, elk, turkey, barred owl, Canada goose, mallard duck and coyote/predator. Each contestant must perform different types of calls, such as locating, feeding and mating calls for each species. There are three divisions of competition — hunter, pro and team. Last year’s hunter division winner got more than $5,000 in cash and prizes. To get in on the fun and $10,000 in cash and industry products awarded, hunters must pay a $175 entry fee. Pros pay a $300 entry fee, with team entries costing $600. Information or entry forms: call NRA’s Hunter Services Department at 703/267-1503 or go to nrahq.org/hunting/gamecalling.asp.

• Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column Sunday and Wednesday and his Fishing Report on Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: gmueller@washingtontimes.com

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