Wildlife and Human Conflict What should I do now?

I found a baby bird. What do I do?

Baby birds found on the ground are rarely abandoned. Birds rarely abandon their young, so it is quite likely that the parents are somewhere close. If the bird has a good bit of feathers, a stumpy tail, and can hop around on its own, it is a fledgling and it needs to be left alone. It can be put into the top of a shrub if there are predators present. If it does not have any feathers or only a bit of down, it is a hatchling. If the original nest cannot be found, a substitute nest can be made by using a small woven basket and pine straw. Put the nest in the tree nearest to where the bird was found at a level that can be safely reached, then leave the nest alone. Monitor from a distance because constant checking can deter the parents from returning. The adults will not carry the baby to the original nest but will tend to it in the new nest. It is a myth that birds can smell human scent on their babies. It is illegal to raise an orphaned bird without a rehabilitation permit, newly-hatched babies must be fed every 15 minutes, different species require different diets, and no human could ever do as good a job as the parents would.

I found a baby squirrel. What do I do?

Baby squirrels can easily be returned to their mother. Fill a small woven basket with pine straw, put the baby squirrel in it and cover the squirrel lightly with another layer of pine straw. Attach the nest to the nearest tree to where the squirrel was found at a level that can be safely reached, then leave the nest alone. The mother will usually come and retrieve the baby and return it to the original nest or another one if the original has been destroyed. (Squirrels construct 4-5 nests simultaneously and move the babies every few days to a new nest.) Constant checking can deter the mother from returning for the baby. It is illegal to raise squirrels without a rehabilitation permit and no human could ever do as good a job as the mother. Squirrels, like most mammals when they are young, are easily acclimated to humans and could never survive in the wild.

A bird hit my window. What can I do for it?

When birds hit a window, they sustain some type of head trauma at the least. This can range from very light to so severe that it causes almost instant death. Most birds, however, can recover in a short amount of time. If you find a bird that you think has hit a window, put it in a small, covered cardboard box for approximately two hours. After that time, take the box outside and open it. If the bird does not fly away, then it will require the care of a licensed rehabilitator.

I found a turtle crossing the road. What should i do?

Turtles should never be removed from the area where they are found. Many turtle species have excellent homing instincts and will try to return to their territory. This means they could end up crossing a lot more roads than the one you found it on. If safe to do so, gently pick the turtle up and set it across the road in the direction it was heading. If you put it on the wrong side of the road, it will turn around and go back across the road again. Snapping turtles can present a challenge. Firmly grasp the rear of the shell by the tail, lift the turtle’s back legs off the ground, and carefully drag it to the side it was facing.

I have animals in my attic. How can I get them out?

Squirrels, raccoon, rats, and opossums will often use any available area as a living space. This could include basements, crawlspaces, and attics. Preventive maintenance will go a long way in keeping these animals out of those spaces. Should you find one living in any of those places, there are several ways to attempt to remove them. Make the area uncomfortable for the animals by using strong smelling liquids such as ammonia, keeping bright lights on constantly or playing loud, hard music from a radio sitting on the floorboards. This often will coax the animal to leave on its own and take any offspring with it. If they do not leave on their own, then professional trapping and removing could be an option. To keep this situation from occurring again, it is important that the entryway to the space be identified and fixed. If this is not done, then there’s a very good chance that you will find creatures in your attic again. Habitat is at a premium and opportunistic animals will take advantage of any space available, including ones shared with humans.

Please note that relocation is not appropriate – the animal will starve to death in the new area or will be killed by others of its own species in territorial disputes. It is estimated >15% of animals survive relocation.

A woodpecker is making holes in my house. How can I get it to stop?

Woodpeckers make holes in houses for two main reasons — one is to make a nesting hole for itself; the other is to find food. Providing a woodpecker house for the bird would give it another place to make its nest. Place the birdhouse on a tree fairly high up and close to where the bird is making the hole in the house. Hang strips of yellow fabric or plastic tablecloth in the area where the bird is pecking. Cornell University discovered that woodpeckers are repelled by yellow. This should help deter it from pecking there and encourage it to use the nest box. If the bird is making a lot of holes in the house, then chances are it is looking for insects. This is most common in stucco and cedar siding. Have your house inspected and treated for insects and that should take care of the problem. It is illegal in the United States to shoot or harm a woodpecker in any way.

I have a snake in my yard. How can I tell if it’s venomous?

Snakes are much-maligned creatures with many myths surrounding them. One of the most common myths about snakes is that if it has a triangular head, it is venomous. This is not true. Although most venomous snakes do have triangular heads, this trait cannot be used to determine if a snake is venomous or not. Most snakes have the ability to flatten their heads, which gives them a triangular appearance. This is especially true if the snake feels threatened. Additionally, snakes will vibrate their tails against the ground to mimic rattlesnakes. The best way to educate yourself about the different types of snakes to be found in your yard is to get a field guide appropriate to your area of the country. Snakes do play a role in the natural balance of even a small ecosystem like a yard. Without them, you would probably be overrun with small rodents. Learn to respect them, not fear them.

The only venomous snake that is found in the metro Atlanta area is the copperhead. Its bite is not fatal (with the exception of kittens, puppies, infants, and the elderly) and with immediate medical attention, can easily be survived. They are very easy to ID, as they are the ONLY snake in the metro area whose dark bands are fatter on the sides than on the back of the snake, appearing as though Hershey’s kisses run down its sides. Additionally, until they are approximately 1 foot long, their tails are fluorescent yellow-green. If you encounter any snake in your yard that you want moved, you can gently squirt it with a garden hose to hurry it along its way.

I have a raccoon coming into my yard. What can I feed it?

Raccoons are very opportunistic feeders. They will eat almost anything that is available, including your pet’s food. Raccoons should not be fed or allowed to eat your pet’s food. They will come to depend upon that food for their source of nutrition. Their diet should come from natural foods that they obtain from the habitat around them. Having a raccoon in your area that is dependent upon humans for food can also cause problems for your neighbors. Raccoons are a rabies-prone species in Georgia and purposely bringing them closer to humans is never a good idea. Remember that even if your pet is vaccinated against rabies, there is still a chance that it can contract the virus.

There are beavers in our pond. How do we keep them from destroying the area around the pond?

Beavers were, at one time, at the brink of extinction due to the fur trade. They have made a huge comeback in North America. Unfortunately, there is not enough undeveloped habitat in Georgia anymore to support the populations. Beavers eat the bark and inner layer of trees and then use those trees to build their dams and lodges. They can easily wipe out an area in a relatively short time. To protect the trees around the pond that you do not want taken down, surround the tree with a 3-½ foot high piece of hardware cloth (wire mesh) that can be found in any hardware store. Also, the trunk of the tree can be painted with masonry sand mixed into latex paint (you can match the tree color). The paint is too gritty and the beavers prefer to eat elsewhere. Aluminum flashing can also be used but is not as subtle as hardware cloth. Beavers would prefer not to come too far out of the water. By planting small trees and shrubs that are relatively inexpensive and grow rapidly close to the water’s edge, this should help protect the trees and shrubs farther from shore. If you live in an area that is by a wetland, it is suggested not to plant expensive trees and shrubs. If you want to live in a natural setting, learn to live in balance.

To locate a licensed wildlife rehabilitator or licensed wildlife removal operator, please visit Animal Help Now and the GA Department of Natural Resources.