Many call Chesapeake home, including a variety of wildlife. The return of spring means that baby season is in full force! If you come across any wildlife in your yard, know the facts before you panic. Read on to discover wildlife facts and misconceptions, common sense precautions and techniques to deter wildlife from visiting your yard, what to do if you think an animal is injured or orphaned, and important resources.
Facts and Misconceptions
Raccoons, possums, rabbits, snakes, birds, foxes, bats, turtles, and other creatures are found in forests, parks, suburbs, and cities. Each local critter plays an important role in keeping our ecosystem functional. They impact the food chain and control the pest population, help with pollination and seed distribution, and some even help reduce disease transmission (many eat mosquitos, ticks, etc.!).
Wildlife is often misunderstood, especially when they find themselves in our neighborhoods. Our initial instinct is to fear an attack on our family or pets. In reality, a person is 700 times more likely to be harmed by a dog or a cat than one of these wild animals. As for your pet, he or she is much more likely to attack wildlife than the other way around.
Another common misconception is that if you see an animal roaming around during the day, it must be rabid. This is not always the case. Animals, including raccoons, possums, and foxes can move locations during the day if they are disturbed by humans or looking for food. It is still best to not interact with these animals. To help identify if an animal is rabid, read up on signs of rabies and important precautions. If you suspect an animal to be rabid, sick, or injured, contact the Non-Emergency hotline at 757-382-6161. Never handle the animal yourself.
How to Prevent Unwanted Animal Visitors and Interactions
Wildlife is naturally drawn to food sources. The best way to discourage wildlife from visiting your property is to eliminate attractive food sources. This may include removing bird feeders, at least temporarily, and bringing pet food indoors. More precautions include:
- Keep tree branches trimmed away from your home.
- Seal openings to your crawl space, attic, or roof.
- Cover dryer, stove, and exhaust vents.
- Consider a chimney cover to prevent birds from nesting there.
- Do not feed pets outdoors, or immediately remove food dishes after a pet has eaten.
- Always keep pet rabies vaccinations current.
- Keep pets confined to prevent contact with wildlife. Bring pets indoors at night.
- Secure pet doors at night.
- Do not feed wildlife, because this will encourage them to return. It may also lead them to expect other humans, who might be fearful of wildlife, to feed them.
- Keep garbage tightly secured.
- Do not chase, corner, or try to pet or touch wildlife.
For more answers to commonly asked questions, visit the City’s wildlife page.
Injured or Orphaned Animals
Remember that handling wildlife – whether it be an injured, sick, or orphaned animal – can do more harm than good, regardless of positive intentions. Leave handling to the professionals, unless specifically instructed by a rehabilitation facility to assist in a rescue.
It is common in the spring for concerned individuals to pick up animals that exhibit “abnormal” behavior or seem to be orphaned. Many behaviors that people view as abnormal are normal in wildlife, and most wild animals are dedicated parents who will not abandon their young. They may leave their young alone for long periods of time to look for food, but the parent will eventually return. A parent may be close by, waiting for the human to leave. Baby birds, or fledglings, often look abandoned but are perfectly fine.
If an animal is dazed, unconscious, hurt, or abandoned for an extensive time, call a rehabilitation facility or 757-382-6161 and follow their instructions. If able and willing, a rehabilitator may instruct you to place an animal in a well-ventilated box or elevated place to protect them from predators. If instructed to pick up an animal, do so with care and while wearing heavy gloves. Handle it as little as possible and keep your hands away from its mouth. Do not feed it.
Never attempt to rescue skunks or bats, as these are higher risk cases. Never attempt to capture a sick or injured adult mammal. They view human handling as a threat and can bite severely.
Animal Services will only relocate an animal if it is sick, injured, or orphaned.
There are numerous reasons why we should appreciate and respect our furry and feathered neighbors. They are all part of Chesapeake’s wonderful community, and even the smallest critter impacts us in a positive way. As we should take care of each other, we should also be kind and mindful toward the animals around us.