After the wonderful conversation I had with the Green Gardenista, I thought we had totally exhausted the topic of healthy backyard ponds. But, as the plant life grows at an alarming rate, so does the wildlife that inhabit the woods around my pond. Build a pond and they will come. It is truly amazing that without any special encouragement, mammals, birds, bugs, frogs, turtles, snakes and other creatures will just appear and join the pond party.
My son, his girlfriend and I were enjoying our lunch on the deck that overlooks the pond when I noticed a strong rippling effect over the water. It was not quite a splash, but something (thought it was a frog at first) was frantically positioning itself onto a lily pad. On closer inspection, a small bird had fallen or hopped into the pond. It was madly flailing its webless feet in circles on the lily pad. To save it from drowning, he scooped it out with a fishing net and I went off to identify it. I must admit, instead of riffling through a field guide, I took the easy route and sent a picture of the small bird with large feet to my sister-in-law who is a veterinarian. She identified it as a newborn baby turkey or poult, and told us to dropper feed it a tiny bit of water and call a wildlife rehab center.
Initially, I had very little luck getting a rehab person to call me back, but the New York State Dept. of Environmental Conservation (DEC) got right back to me. They told us to set the baby turkey back into the woods and let nature takes its course. We were worried it would die, so I called the rehabilitators again.† Eventually, a wildlife rehab person came and took the baby turkey.
Next: What to do if you find baby or injured wildlife in your yard
What to do if you find baby or injured wildlife in your yard (or on a lily pad!): This is adapted from Animal Protection.
Baby Birds: Many baby birds are mistaken for orphans during a short “fledgling” period where they have left the nest, but still rely on mom and dad for food. Fledgling birds are often found on the ground and assumed to be injured or abandoned. This is not usually the case! Do not move these little birds unless they are in immediate danger of being hit by a lawnmower, stepped on, etc. It is OK to move a fledgling a short distance to a safer place if absolutely necessary. The parents will find it. It is a myth that birds will reject babies touched by humans. If the parents do not return to feed it within an hour or so, call a wildlife rehabilitator.
Injured Birds: Place the bird in a box and put it in a quiet place until you can contact a wildlife rehabilitator. Birds that have flown into a window may just be stunned and can probably be released after a little bit of rest. Keep cats and other pets away.
Baby Rabbits: Baby rabbits live in “nests” that are sometimes accidentally uncovered by people. If you uncover a nest, the best thing to do is to gently herd the babies back to the nest and leave them alone. Baby rabbits are easily stressed and extremely difficult to keep alive once they are out of their motherís care. Please do not handle them unless absolutely necessary. They are extremely cute, but will probably not survive if you try to raise them on your own.
Other Injured/Baby Animals: Many wild animals are cute, especially babies, and it might be tempting to try and care for one on your own. Wildlife rehabilitators have the facilities and knowledge to address the very specific needs of various wildlife species.
Here is a state by state listing of wildlife rehabilitators. This also includes some international contacts.
Have you had encounters with baby or injured wildlife at your home?