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Be Cautious of Emerging Spring Wildlife - April 9, 2017

               As spring comes into full swing, our native resort wildlife begins to emerge to once again co-exist with our resort visitors; so I thought it would be a good idea to convey a few bits of information I have learned to help protect our natural residents.

                Here on the Eastern Shore, we enjoy a variety of wildlife. There are over 360 different bird species, and more than 108 rare, threatened, or endangered species. As these animals emerge in the spring, it is important to know how to respond should you encounter any of our local wildlife.

                One such animal that is beginning to emerge is the diamondback terrapin turtle. Little is known about the Maryland state mascot; scientists and researchers are studying populations to determine whether it is a threatened species. There are a few ways we can help protect this enigmatic species. Terrapins are attracted to the same bait used to catch blue crabs. Turtle excluders attached to crab pots will deter the turtles from entering but will still allow crabs through. If you are in need of a turtle excluder, contact Sandi Smith at sandis@mdcoastalbays.org or 410-213-2297 ext. 107 to outfit your crab pots. Terrapins are an estuarine native, and not a sea turtle. Do not release them, especially hatchlings, into the ocean. They are more susceptible to being eaten by predators.  Additionally, do not attempt to relocate a nest, terrapins are experts in disguising their nests and the original location is safer than a relocated one.

                During this time of the year, turtles can be seen attempting to cross the road. Terrestrial turtles have a unique home device and only travel about the distance of a football field from their “turtle quarters”. When you see one crossing the road, take it to the other side, but do not try to relocate it more than 50 yards as it will likely result in its demise . Be cautious of snapping turtles, as they can bite you. Simply try to encourage it across the road; they are more afraid of you and will scurry across faster.

                Wild bunnies can make their nests in some bizarre places. If you stumble upon a nest without the mother, leave it alone as she will return. If a pet brings one home and it is alive and relatively unhurt, try to place it where you think it was found. Rabbits stress easily so trying to feed and nurture it will do it more harm than good.

                Unfortunately, sometimes baby squirrels will crawl or fall out of their nests. If it is crying, the mother will want to get it. Look to see if you can spot a nest in a tree. The best bet is to place it under that tree. If you fear that a dog or cat may get it before momma, take a gallon milk jug, cut the top off, put the baby in the jug and tie it to the tree. If it’s still there after several hours, it may be in trouble and you may want to find a local wildlife rehabilitator.

                 Should you find a fawn (a small deer with white spots), it is most likely fine. Mother deer will leave their young to forage food. It is best to leave the fawn alone. If it remains in the same location for more than a day, there may be a problem. Also, if you see that it has ticks on it, this means that the mother is gone and it needs help.

                Our most primitive native, the horseshoe crab spawns during full moons and high tides throughout the summer months. Despite their looks, they are harmless and cannot bite or pinch. Should you see one upside down on land, right it by picking it up by the shell. Do not pick them up by their tails (which are actually a navigational appendage called a telson), they are fragile and break off easily resulting in death.

                While many consider them to be creepy, bats number one food source is the pesky mosquito. Although they are vulnerable to carrying rabies, you are more likely to be hit by a lightning strike. They often will rest in alcoves of outdoor buildings during the daytime. If you see one, don’t panic and leave it alone; it will not move until dark.

                Snakes; I call them the slithering salvation. I get it. Most people are scared of snakes. Snakes have been persecuted for many centuries.  Here’s the deal, they eat rodents that can carry diseases that can be transmitted to us. Snakes do not carry diseases that can be transmitted to us. Live and let live.

                We are lucky to live in an area with such amazing and diverse wildlife to enjoy. If you should stumble upon an injured animal, and have a question or concern about what to do, contact Sandi Smith at sandis@mdcoastalbays.org or 410-213-2297 ext. 106 for assistance. Next week’s article will be dedicated to birds as I’ve reached our maximum word count for this week! We have a lot of information on how to help our local birds. Until then…

 Smith is the Development and Marketing Coordinator for the Maryland Coastal Bays Program.



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