Mother Nature's Young

Morgan Bongard

morgan bongard | wild green bay | may 2019

I do not think the measure of a civilization is how tall its buildings of concrete are, but rather how well its people have learned to relate to their environment and fellow man. – Sun Bear, Chippewa Tribe

Although spring is emerging a bit late this year, Mother Nature can still be seen working on her new season with all things new and growing. You may find a nest of sleeping cottontail bunnies or see fuzzy yellow goslings feeding in the wet grasses. You may see birds flitting about with nesting materials to work on a new home or tiny squirrels begin their cautious emergence from the warmth and security of their nests.

This is also the time that baby animals that appear to be abandoned or injured are most likely to come in contact with humans.

We visited Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary on a damp and cold spring morning. Just 30 minutes prior to our arrival, a week-old raccoon with eyes still closed had been recovered from a garage floor in a rural area of Green Bay. He was brought to the sanctuary cold and lethargic.

“Another hour and he wouldn't have made it," says Animal Curator Lori Bankson of the creature that fits easily into the palm of her hand.

Knowing that the best chance of survival for this creature is by being returned to his mother, the individual who dropped him off remains in touch with the sanctuary and is on the lookout for any more babies or signs of mom.

“We try to give that wild mother every chance possible to get her family back together," says Bankson. “Meanwhile, we'll try and get him warmed up and fed. We'll also check him over for any injuries. However, if we don't find mom, we'll take care of him until he's old enough to be released back into the wild."

Last year, the sanctuary took in nearly 6,000 orphaned and/or injured animals–more than in any year previous. According to Bankson, some of those “rescues" were unnecessary. While one may encounter baby animals this spring that appear orphaned, it's important to note that not all animals that appear to be orphaned actually are. Below is a checklist of things to help determine whether that baby needs human intervention or not.

Cottontails – If you find a nest of babies and mom is not around, don't panic. Cottontail mothers often leave nests for hours while searching for food, but she will always return at sunrise and sunset. Cottontails grow very quickly and are often grown and out of the nest at around two to three weeks old. These nests are best left alone with the babies intact. To see if mom is caring for the babies, put some yarn in a tic-tac-toe pattern over the nest and if the yarn appears disturbed some hours later, you'll know that mom has returned to feed her babies. An overturned laundry basket placed over the nest will provide a marker to prevent destroying the nest (and its inhabitants) while mowing. Cutting openings at either end of the basket will allow the mother access to her babies.

Squirrels – If a very young squirrel approaches you, and seems distressed, it's likely that it needs help. However, if they're running and appear to be playing, then it's likely that they are just fine. They are best left alone.

Songbirds – If a nest or a baby falls from a nest, try to put the nest and its babies back. If there appears to be no nest, a plastic container with a couple of holes in the bottom for drainage and filled with grass or hay will work just fine. Leave the nest close by and mom will find it and tend to her young–even if not placed in exactly the same place as before.

Fawns – If you find a fawn lying down in grass and not moving, he's just fine. Although hidden, his mother is likely nearby. But if a fawn is walking around, crying and seems distressed or is foaming at the mouth, then he's likely injured or orphaned. The fawn will need to be called into the sactuary to be sure he gets to a proper rehabilitator.

Ducks – With all the rain and flooding of late, many ducks have begun nesting in areas that may be very near to traffic or other harmful areas. If you find nests in such places, a direct call to the Green Bay Duck Hunters Rescue Association is best. This organization will monitor these nests and after the eggs have hatched out, they will relocate the entire brood and mom to safer areas. Last year alone, this organization rescued 1,200 ducks in this way. For more information, please contact volunteer leader Joe Loehlein at (920) 621-8950.

The sanctuary is in great need of many supplies to help care for these young animals during the most vulnerable stages of their life. As the sanctuary cares for nearly 6,000 animals annually, their supplies are greatly depleted. They will gratefully welcome donations of the following items which include Purina puppy and kitten chow (new bags, please), bird seed of any kind, raw nuts and unsalted peanuts in the shell, rabbit pellets, alfalfa, Timothy hay, unflavored Pedialyte, baby blankets, bath towels, heating pads that do not automatically shut off, shoeboxes and lids (without holes, please), cotton swabs, cotton balls, cloth diapers, baby wipes and jars of baby food (fruits and vegetables).

For questions concerning new wildlife in your area, or if you are unsure what to do in the event that you encounter unsupervised young, the sanctuary is glad to answer any questions. You may call the sanctuary directly at (920) 391-3671. They are open daily from 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

-- photo by Mark R. /

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