Wild Animals need help after long winter
Imagine waking up to find a newborn fawn, literally, on your doorstep.
That’s a scenario Mark Naniot, director of Wild Instincts, recently faced and it’s likely he will be encountering more of these dilemmas in the coming weeks. The month of June is one of the busiest for this dedicated wildlife rehabber although this spring has been a little slower than usual.
“I believe it’s because of the long winter we had,” said Mark. “Migrating birds are late getting up here this year and mammals have had a hard time with two bad winters in a row.”
While actual numbers of animals are down so far, there are animals here who need plenty of care. Take for instance the nine bear cubs in residence. Two of the mothers were killed by cars while the third was poached, leaving four tiny cubs orphaned. All these babies live in a spacious outdoor communal cage where they can interact and keep their wild instincts intake until they are old enough to let free.
“Unless they need medical care we try minimizing human contact with them,” said Mark. “That way when they go back into the wild they stay away from humans.”
That’s important because a bear that is not scared of humans usually ends up dead.
“Recently we dealt with a bear a guy raised by hand thinking it would make a fun pet,” said Mark. “When that wasn’t working out we got the bear and by then it was so tame it couldn’t be let free. It almost had to be euthanized because we couldn’t find a home for it. Thankfully we eventually did find it a home in a sanctuary but it will never be able to roam free.”
Squirrels and raccoons are also frequent orphans. Right now there are 16 baby squirrels requiring care in addition to six baby raccoons.
“People come back up north and find them in garages, under boat tarps, in chimneys,” said Mark. “Or they trim a tree in their yard and find a nest.”
Vehicle strikes are another way, particularly birds, get injured at the hands of humans. Right now Mark is caring for a red-tailed hawk, a great horned owl, an eagle and a herring gull, all who were struck by cars.
There are some creatures that are difficult to rehab and one animal in particular is illegal to rehabilitate. A new law went into effect which prohibits bats from being rehabilitated to curb the spread of White-nose syndrome. This fatal and deadly disease is prevalent with cave dwelling bats and was just discovered in Wisconsin this spring. Other animals that are hard to rehabilitate are adult deer and loons. And Mark will not touch skunks.
Since building Wild Instincts a few years ago Mark and his wife Sharon have dedicated their life to saving and helping injured wildlife. They also are avid educators when it comes to caring for these creatures.
With the busy season right around the corner, the couple is working diligently to educate people on what to do if they find an animal injured or by itself.
“Wildlife mothers are the best at raising their babies and so we always try and see if we can get that baby back to its mother first,” said Mark. “I’ve climbed trees to get a baby bird back in a nest. We also try to see if a baby can be fostered by a member of its own kind if it is orphaned.”
That may be the case for the tiny beaver kit that just recently came to the facility. It is so tiny, its umbilical cord is still attached.
“Beavers are social animals and babies stay with their mothers for two years,” said Mark. “There is a beaver being rehabilitated at another facility so when this one can eat on its own we will probably send it over there.”
Mark also highly encourages anyone who sees what they believe to be an orphaned or injured creature to call first before touching it. This is especially true with fawns. These babies instinctively know to lie still while mom keeps watch from a distance. Their little legs are too small to keep up with their mother for the first week or two and so deer have developed this survival method.
Many times a person will come across a fawn all alone and assume it is orphaned. Usually that’s not the case and walking quietly away is all it takes before mama deer returns. However, Mark is concerned about that this year.
“We’ve had two bad winters in a row and I think some fawns may be pretty weak when they are born this spring,” he said. “If I tell someone to leave the fawn alone and then it dies people get upset so there is a fine line you have to walk.”
It costs a lot of money to rehab animals and Wild Instincts operates on donations alone. It can cost up to $1,500 to $2,000 for one fawn and $3,000 to $4,000 to raise a bear cub. Even owls, who require mice for food, eat five to six a day at a $1 apiece. Last year more than 600 animals came through the doors at Wild Instincts.
“It all adds up pretty fast so the more animals we can keep with their moms the better,” said Mark.
One baby that was reunited with its mother was the fawn found on someone’s doorstep in Eagle River just a week ago.
“The mother and baby walked into a neighborhood and were chased by dogs and got separated,” said Mark. “The baby ended up on someone’s front step but I told the people who called to wait until morning and see what happens. Sure enough that mother came back for her baby. It was a happy ending.”
If you find an animal that needs help call Wild Instincts first. (The phone is answered 24/7.) The numbers are 715-362-WILD or 715-490-2727.