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Animal Control Corner

Weston's Animal Control Officer has posted helpful tips, FAQs, and other items of interest regarding Weston's wildlife, farm animals, and house pets.

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May 12

What is Wildlife Doing in the Springtime?

Posted on May 12, 2020 at 10:41 AM by Kara Fleming

What is wildlife doing in the spring time? If you missed the baby wildlife post last year, here is a recap with some new info, too!

Bunnies
Bunnies will be born shortly in your yards. If you find a nest, leave them. You'll mostrabbit nest likely notice the nest while out during yard chores. You will not see the mother rabbit with the nest because if she sat on her nest, she would actually be endangering her babies by luring in  predators. Mom may come for 5 minutes or so, dusk and dawn to nurse and that is all you'll see of her.

If you think that something has happened to the mother, there is a trick you can do to see if she is in fact coming or going from the nest. Place a circle of flour around the nest and see if it is disturbed by the mother while she's coming and going. If the mother doesn't show, rabbits are a species that may be sent to licensed rehabilitation. 

Foxes
Fox families are having their litters right now. Although they are nocturnal by nature, they will absolutely come out during the daytime when there is a family unit. Fox parents teach their young how to hunt, socialize, and to become independent typically by mid-August.

If you are seeing foxes playing and interacting on your property there is likely a den nearby and a nourishment source (water/woods/etc). Many fox will den under sheds, decks, mulch piles, or burrows from other animals that they have expanded. Once the fox family has weaned the kits from the family unit, it is really important that the homeowner inspects the abandoned den sight and destroy future access for wild animals. If something happens to mom fox, and the kits are truly orphaned, a licensed wildlife rehabilitation expert may be able to help under certain circumstances.

Fishers
Frequently called fisher cats, these critters are actually part of the weasel family. They are the second largest weasel in Massachusetts, second to the River Otter. The springtime behavior of this species is similar to that of the fox.

Fishers are usually elusive, but they are seen more often at this time of the year for the same reason as the fox - the family is looking for nourishment. Their breeding season is currently underway but because the gestation period is close to one year, we'll likely see litters of fishers soon. If something happens to the fisher young and they are truly orphaned, a licensed wildlife rehabilitation expert may be able to help under certain circumstances.

Turtles
Keep on the look-out for turtles making their annual treks across yards, roadways and trails as they venture out to lay their eggs. You may even see a turtle making a sandbox in a section of your lawn to lay eggs.. The viability of turtle eggs is dependent on weather and predators. The turtle does not stay with her nest after laying eggs.

If you move a turtle, you need to move it in the direction of its current travel "flight plan" because they have a path to take and will turn around if taken off that path. Exercise caution if you come across a snapping turtle, as they will bite. Painted and spotted turtles can be picked up and moved, but a snapping turtle needs to be handled by the back-end section of the carapace (by the rear legs/tail area). Do not lift the snapping turtle by the tail as it can dislocate its spine. Snappers may have the ability to bite even if you are at the back end of the carapace. This short video is a great demonstration of how to move a snapping turtle. There are a select few wildlife hospitals in Massachusetts that do care for turtles outside of a wildlife clinic/hospital setting.

Fawns
If you see a fawn with spots sleeping on your lawn, grab your camera because you are in for a treat that many never see. Whatever you do, though, DO NOT approach the fawn or worry. A doe (a deer, a female deer) leaves her fawns in areas where she feels is "safe" to leave them. The doe will seek out nourishment without her fawns because being together would increase the chances of predator attacks. There is no rehabilitation for deer unless there is special state permission.

Birds
We're not here yet but the baby birds will be among us soon. When they are young and still in the nest, you may encounter a bossy parent protecting their nest if it's near an eave, gutter, or tree near the driveway.

When the young hit fledgling status some fly straight from the nest and some try and fall. Do not panic if you see a baby bird around. If you know where the nest is, you can safely place the animal back in the nest. If you do not know where the nest is, watch for the parent, they will still feed and care for their young on the ground and give them the nudge they need to learn to successfully fly.

It's important to note that there are only 7 types of birds in Massachusetts that licensed rehabilitation may rehab without a federal permit. They are Mute Swan, Turkey, European Starling, Rock Pigeon, Roughed Grouse, Ring Necked Pheasant, House Sparrow, and Bob White Quail.

If you're interested in seeing some live nesting video, visit:

Skunks
Skunks are mostly nocturnal but they may be seen in the early morning or evening. They are omnivores feeding on a variety of fruits, vegetables, insects, small reptiles and small rodents. Babies are born from April to August and are on their own at 12-14 weeks.

Skunks are excellent diggers but not great climbers. In the summer, a common occurrence with these animals is them getting stuck in window wells. By placing a wooden plank in the well and leaving it will help them find their way out on their own. A truly orphaned skunk may be rehabilitated through a licensed rehabber.

Raccoons
Raccoon young are about to be born. The mating season is from February to March and are born approximately 60 days after mating. Usually, you won't see them until 3 1/2 to 4 weeks after they are born. Raccoons are opportunistic nesters and eaters. They will use chimneys, attics, sheds, trees, and other areas to raise their family, and will eat just about anything. Similar to a fox, it is imperative that property owners close off access to potential nesting areas, and to make sure their garbage is secured. Raccoons are really quite intelligent critters!

Keeping Safe
As with all animals, the advice of this department is do not touch stray animals or wildlife. Mammals can carry many disease processes that could endanger your health and safety. If you (or your pet) have a physical interaction with a rabies vector animal it needs to be reported immediately to the animal control officer to go through risk assessment, quarantine protocols, and to ensure the safety of all involved.

When to Contact Animal Control
If you see any of these signs: 
  • apparent/visible injury
  • circling
  • lethargic
  • paralysis/falling over/staggering
  • excessive salivation
  • behavioral changes: aggressive, anxious or more friendly than normal
  • confusion
  • seizing
  • discharge from the eyes and nose
  • an altercation between wildlife and a human and/or domestic animal
Wildlife is governed by the state Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, also known as MassWildlife, and is the leading agency for issues that do not fall under public safety exposure. I encourage all with questions and concerns to reach out to them at their headquarters at 508-389-6300 and they will be able to answer your species-specific questions. Alternatively, the agency has a library of New England wildlife on its website. In a case of emergency, contact the police department for emergency services. 

Of course, if anyone has any questions along the way give me a call at 781-786-6210 or email hoffman.[at]@police.westonMA.gov