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Tips for helping orphaned wildlife

Published: Tuesday, April 2, 2013 12:55 p.m. CDT

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It’s that time again when baby wild animals and people come into contact with one another. First owlets and squirrels, then raccoons, opossums, waterfowl and songbirds – the transition from winter to summer brings the busiest season for wildlife and for Oaken Acres Wildlife Center in rural Sycamore.

With the closing of the wildlife nursery at TAILS Humane Society, Oaken Acres will be the only wildlife center in DeKalb County. Here are a few tips to make life easier for everyone – wild babies and their moms, rescuers and the staff at Oaken Acres.

• Unless an animal is obviously injured or orphaned, leave it alone until you get advice from a wildlife professional. There is a page on the Oaken Acres website – www.oakenacres.org – that details what to do when you find a wild animal that may be in need of help.

• Be certain it needs to rescued before picking it up. While most wild mothers will accept their babies back after being touched by people, it’s always better for them to stay in the wild. An Oaken Acres staff member can advise you on the proper method of capture and transportation if the animal needs to be rescued.

• Until "baby season" is in full swing, an appointment is necessary to take an animal to Oaken Acres. After May 1, Oaken Acres will accept injured or orphaned wildlife from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

• Keep cats indoors, especially during the spring, when wild babies are most vulnerable. According to the most recent reputable study of cat predation on wildlife, millions of wild animals – mostly babies – attacked by owned cats usually receive injuries too severe for the wild babies to survive.

• If you have a problem with a nuisance wild animal – raccoon or squirrel nesting in your attic, foxes or coyotes becoming more visible, birds building nests in house vents or soffits – call Oaken Acres for a humane solution. Most nuisance wildlife agencies kill any animals they are hired to remove. Legal methods include clubbing, drowning and suffocating. While humane methods may take a bit longer and require some accommodations, they’re usually almost no cost to the homeowner and they keep wild families together without the need for any of them to die.

• Do not attempt to raise a wild orphan on your own. First, it’s illegal for anyone to possess a wild animal without the proper permits from state and/or federal agencies. Most importantly, wild animals are not like domestic pets. Each species needs specific care and most people are not equipped or able to provide the proper care to keep them alive, let alone raise them to be successfully released into the wild. This is not a good experience for children – it will usually end with the child in tears when the baby dies due to improper care. Oaken Acres has been raising orphaned wildlife for almost 30 years and releases most of its patients back into the wild where they belong.

For more information, visit www.oakenacres.org. To make an appointment to bring in an animal, call 815-895-9666.

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