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Be Cautious of Emerging Spring Wildlife - April 10, 2016

               As the plants and flowers of spring begin to emerge, so do the various animals that make the Coastal Bays their home. 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.

                While unfortunate, baby birds can often be found on the ground in the spring time. Should you encounter one, the best thing to do is to place it back in its nest. Don’t worry about touching the bird; it is an old wives’ tale that the parents will no longer care for a baby that has been touched. If the bird is almost able to fly, it is a fledging. If you can hear its parents and can catch it, place it in thick shrubbery. If you are unsure, call Tri-State Bird Rescue at (302) 737-9543 and they will provide you with advice as to what to do.

                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 unhurt, try to place it where you think it was found. Bunnies are at the bottom of the food chain and have a built-in defense mechanism that triggers a quick death. Its best chance for survival is to get back to the mother before it comes too stressed. If you find a baby bunny that it about the size of a baseball with ears pointed up, it is old enough to be on its own.

                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.

                Unfortunately, sometimes baby squirrels will fall out of their nests due to high winds or being caught by a predator. The best thing to do is to try and locate the nest. Cut a large carton open, leaving the handle, and place bedding inside like an old piece of cloth. Tie the container to the tree where the nest is located, and place the baby on top of the bedding. The mother will hear the baby’s cries and carry it back to the nest. In the event that the mother does not come back, it is best to take the squirrel to a wildlife rehabber. Unfortunately, there are no licensed rehabbers on the Eastern Shore but there are several on the western side of the bay bridge.

                Our most primitive native, the horseshoe crab spawns during full moons and high tides through out 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. 

                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 home. When you see one crossing the road, take it to the other side, but do not try to relocate it more than 50 yards. 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.

                Little is known about the Maryland state mascot; the Diamondback Terrapin. 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 atsandis@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. Maryland Coastal Bays Program will be conducting a terrapin count in May. For volunteer information, contact Jen Rafter at jrafter@mdcoastalbays.org or 410-213-2297 ext. 105.

                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. 107 for assistance.

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



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