You’re invited to a wildlife baby shower Feb. 29

CNC sees plenty of Eastern Screech Owl babies in the spring.

You’re invited to a wildlife baby shower!

Did you know spring is the perfect time of year for baby animals? While they may be cute their first weeks, a lot goes into caring for them, as CNC’s wildlife rehabilitators can tell you.

This Leap Day–February 29–come learn all about CNC’s efforts to help injured wildlife as we celebrate a wildlife baby shower. The special event is sponsored by Northside Hospital, which has guaranteed matching all donations, up to $5,000. The wildlife team rely heavily on donations to do their work and accommodate the animals. Without the help of the community, CNC will not be able to support all the baby animals who come to us this year.

Spring brings buds, blooms, and rains, and lots of calls to the Wildlife Department at CNC about baby animals. While CNC is licensed and trained only for raptors, reptiles, and amphibians, the Wildlife Department responds to over 150 requests each month in spring regarding wildlife babies of all species, of which only about 40 are accepted for care at CNC while the others are referred to rehabbers of those species if necessary. Overall, CNC takes in over 600 injured animals each year.

This day is a great opportunity to meet wildlife technicians and learn about what they do as well as get up close to some amazing animals. Learn from the professionals what to do when you find a baby animal. On this day, CNC will have unique wildlife walks with specialists dishing all the best stories about our rehabilitated animals as well as fun and games for the whole family to learn about their favorite baby animals.

But what’s so special about spring for baby wild animals?

Isn’t this baby vulture adorable?

Wildlife Director Kathryn Dudeck lays it all out: “With warmer weather approaching, plants are beginning to sprout and bud, which is delicious food for several smaller animals, such as rabbits, chipmunks, and songbirds. An ample food supply signals that it is suitable conditions to have offspring. With smaller animals being born, predatory species such as raptors coincide their breeding seasons.”

For instance, Eastern cottontail rabbits typically breed February–September, and Great Horned Owls (a main predator of rabbits) often lay eggs in January so that there will be ample prey to feed their young.

Caring for young animals can be tricky as well, Dudeck said. Reptiles can be easy; from hatching, the species native to north Georgia are self-sufficient and don’t need a parent. This does not stop people from finding hatchling turtles and, thinking they have been orphaned, will bring them in for rehabilitation. They’re OK! Leave them be!

Raptors are a different story entirely. Two of the primary reasons CNC sees young birds of prey are because of nest loss, due to storms or human interaction, and being clumsy teenagers, Dudeck said.

Yes, even raptors go through an awkward phase.

Yes, even raptors have a awkward phase.

“Once raptors start to grow their adult feathers, they are too large for the nest,” Dudeck said. “At approximately 6-8 weeks old, they start perching on the branches around the nest, and then start building up their flight muscles by jumping from branch to branch. Occasionally, they miss a landing and are found uninjured on the ground.”

Unfortunately, raptors require more care than reptiles. For starters, depending on the age they may need feeding every couple of hours or their food must be specially prepared.

Because they can imprint on another creature (like humans), wildlife technicians at CNC wear a ghillie suit to disguise themselves and play recorded food-begging calls. Since vultures have an acute sense of smell, feathers from our resident vultures can be placed around the baby to give off the right smells.

Whenever possible, CNC will attempt to reunite the youngster with its parents if it is uninjured. If that is not possible, our non-releasable resident birds will sometimes become temporary foster parents.

Dudeck said that people will likely start seeing more baby and juvenile wildlife this time of year, and she has some tips to help them.

1) Observe from a distance to look for the parents. They may be out hunting!

2) If no parents are seen, contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. Some species leave their young for hours at a time. Do not try to capture the animal or offer it food. Even babies can carry diseases, and the wrong food can kill them.

3) Contact Animal Help Now (ahnow.org) to find your local rehabilitator for instructions on how best to proceed.