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Thursday, July 2, 2015

Keep Austin Wild

Golden-cheeked Warbler
As Austin and surrounding areas grow and expand, encounters with urban wildlife become increasingly frequent, especially during the spring and summer breeding seasons.

Wild animals often make their homes in or around our homes, and they can be unwelcome and even destructive.  Be aware that trapping is not always the answer, and should only be used as a last resort.  Unless the source of the problem is eliminated (uncapped chimneys, holes in decks or attics, pet food left outside), another animal will likely move into the same spot.  Additionally, during spring and summer, you may trap a mother whose babies will be left orphaned if she is removed.

Eastern Cottontail
Trapping is also quite stressful for animals, and they often injure themselves when trying to escape.  They can be exposed to the elements and left trapped for an unknown number of hours or days, without food or water.  If they are relocated, they may have trouble finding food, water, or shelter, as they will be disoriented in their new environment.  They can also be considered intruders by the resident animal population, and be driven away or attacked, with a very uncertain outcome.

Nine-banded Armadillo
To avoid all of these situations, there are humane solutions to prevent common wildlife problems before they occur.  These include installing L-shaped mesh barriers under decks, sheds, and around gardens, adding bungee cords to trash can lids or keeping the cans inside the garage until collection day, capping the top of the chimney, installing mesh covered attic vents, taking pet food indoors overnight, and adding squirrel-proof baffles to bird feeders.

If you do run across wildlife babies, remember that they cannot digest cow’s milk properly, so they should be brought to Wildlife Rescue as soon as possible.  Fawns are often left alone and curled up in the grass for up to 10-12 hours while their mothers forage, so if their mouth is warm, bottom is clean, and they are not being overrun by fire ants, leave them alone.  Young feathered birds are frequently found on the ground and belong there, as it is natural for them to fledge the nest and learn to fly, feed, and avoid predators, all under the watchful eyes of their parents, who are likely nearby.  Unfeathered baby birds can be safely united with their parents by creating a makeshift nest, nailing a small plastic bowl as high as you can reach onto a tree, first poking a few small drain holes in the bottom, adding some dry grass or leaves, and placing the nestlings in it.  Within a few hours, the parents should return to resume feeding them.

Recently, the National Wildlife Federation ranked America’s largest cities based on three criteria for wildlife: percentage of parkland, citizen action to create wildlife habitat, and school adoption of outdoor learning in wildlife gardens.  Austin, Texas was named as “the clear-cut (#1) choice as America’s best city for wildlife, boasting the most Certified Wildlife Habitats (2,154), most certified Wildlife Habitats per capita, and most Schoolyard Habitats (67).  Famous for its Congress Avenue Bridge that’s home to 1.5 million bats, the City of Austin is certified as a Community Wildlife Habitat.  Its residents not only want to Keep Austin Weird – they’re the best in America at keeping their city wild.”

Black-capped Vireo nest
However, as more and more of our landscape is bulldozed and developed, we leave less and less for the native animals that call it home.  The least we can do is be cognizant of these changes, prevent conflicts when possible, and learn to treat our native wildlife as humanely as possible!