We all want to help, and when we see an animal in distress we often overstep our bounds.
As a hunter and photographer, I have learned to keep my distance. Nature always knows best, and has since wildlife first inhabited the earth.
It won’t be long until fawns will be born, and observing one, or catching a glimpse of twins is a very special experience. Another species we give less thought to is groundhogs, and soon they too will be having their young.
Look around you, and you’ll find a wide variety of birds, including doves building their nests. As I gaze at our bird feeders, I notice that some species have already fledged because the mother birds are already introducing them to our “cafeteria.” Since we live very close to state game lands, I am thankful the Pennsylvania Game Commission has passed their “no fly” zone for drones over state game lands. Although this has to be voted on again at their July meeting, I believe it will pass. I do hope the other agencies with land holdings do the same.
According to the commission release, the recreational flying of drones rapidly has gained in popularity, and as it has, the number of cases where drones have caused concern for wildlife has increased as well.
For example, during the snow-goose migration season at Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area this year, Game Commission staff detected at least five instances where drones disturbed wildlife. In one case, a drone was flown into an off-limits propagation area that serves as a sanctuary for resting waterfowl, and another disturbance caused hundreds of waterfowl to suddenly flush. There also were reports of drones being flown close to bald-eagle nests, which causes an obvious risk to eagles and their eggs.
Clearly, this type of activity runs counter to the intended use of properties like Middle Creek and other tracts of state game lands owned by the Pennsylvania Game Commission.
The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners cast a unanimous preliminary vote to enact a ban on the flying of unmanned aerial vehicles over land, or water designated as state game lands. In addition to protecting wildlife, the commissioners said the ban also would ensure drones aren’t used to interfere with lawful hunting and trapping on game lands.
The preliminarily approved measure provides for exceptions to be made through written permission by the executive director.
My own personal experience with drones is concerning one that was flown over the Elk viewing area near Benezette. Karen and I had been talking to an older woman who was visiting from England. We assured her she would see an elk; they had been coming into the field nightly, and we could not wait to see the delight on her face when she observed her very first elk.
Just as the elk began bugling, someone on the property flew a drone over the area. I couldn’t believe the deafening noise it made, or the fact that not a single elk appeared. If you consider the size of an elk, and how easily the drone spooked them, there is more than enough reason to outlaw them. We were so disappointed for the couple from England that would be leaving the next day, without ever having viewed one of the magnificent elk.
It all fits with leaving wildlife alone, especially at this time of the year. As we are observing the emergence of another spring, we marvel at the renewal of nature. It’s that special time when the grass begins to green, the leaves burst forth, and the season’s first flowers poke through the soil revealing such vibrant colors. It’s also that time when a new generation of wildlife arrives.
Pennsylvanians may encounter newborn wildlife in the mountains, fields or in their back yards. They may come across juvenile birds, squirrels, rabbits or even fawns. This season also is time for my “annual message” to leave wildlife, especially the young of the year, alone and in the wild.
Yearly, many people mistakenly believe that the young animal they discover has been abandoned or orphaned. In most cases, this is not the case at all. It’s common for adult wild animals to separate from their young while they search for food.
By separating from the young, the adult animal lessens the chance of a predator coming upon their offspring. This “hider strategy” has the young lying motionless, thereby being less easily spotted. Predators have a better chance of walking by and not finding them.
“While our well-intentioned urge is to want to care for young, wild animals, they’re not meant to be pets. We have to resist the temptation to treat them as pets,” said Barry Leonard, commission information and education supervisor. “It’s not only illegal to possess these animals, you could also be opening yourself to the risk of contracting a disease or parasites. They can carry everything from fleas and ticks, to lice. Never attempt to pick up or handle a sick or injured wild animal.”
He also cautioned that rabies is a real threat. There is no way to determine if an animal is rabid just by looking at it. Many diseases, or even some injuries can cause rabies-like symptoms. Readily transferable to humans, rabies can infect any warm-blooded animal.
Wildlife rehabilitators, who are licensed by the Game Commission, are the only ones who are permitted to care for injured or orphaned wildlife, for the purposes of eventual release back into the wild. For those who find wildlife that truly is in need of assistance, a listing of licensed wildlife rehabilitators can be found on the Pennsylvania Association of Wildlife Rehabilitators website, www.pawr.com.
If you are unable to identify a wildlife rehabilitator in your area, contact the Game Commission region office that services the county in which the animal is found. Region office contact information can be found on the commission’s website, www.pgc.state.us.
Yes, it’s that time of the year, and each and every year I offer the same advice. Wild animals are born in the wild and are intended to stay there. I know we all have bleeding hearts when it comes to young wildlife, but mothers rarely abandon their young. They will come back if at all possible and tend to them.
It’s a wonderful time of the year, as black bears emerge from hibernation, and the outdoors recycles itself once again. So, please enjoy observing the newest members of the animal kingdom this spring. Take plenty of photos of them, from a safe distance of course, and you’ll witness nature at one of its finest times of the year.