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World News | By ‘helping’ wild animals, you could end their freedom or even their life – here’s why you should keep your distance


Streaks of light seen in California. (Photo credit: Video Grab)

University Park (USA), July 2 (conversation) For anyone who loves nature, summer is an amazing time to be outdoors. Animals are migrating: turtles are nesting, baby birds are testing their wings, snakes are foraging, and young mammals are emerging.

In central Pennsylvania, where I live, painted turtles that hatched last year spend the winter in their nests, looking like helpless snacks for raccoons and crows. I’ve rescued a baby deer – a parking lot nesting shorebird – that ran off the road and got stuck in a grill. I also witnessed an Eastern chipmunk preying on a brood of white chipmunk chicks.

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I moved the deer hunt to safety because it fell into what we call an “ecological trap”. These traps are created when humans destroy what appears to be suitable habitat for animals. For killer deer, parking spaces and rooftops give off all the vibes of a great nesting place — except for gutters — and there are fewer and fewer of them in their natural habitat these days.

But I didn’t interfere with the trailer. Their exposed nest could be a bad decision by the parents, or it could be that the chicks’ begging is getting too much attention. Either way, natural selection helped ensure that these birds and their genes were less likely to survive. Ultimately, this is probably better for the population and species than me intervening.

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As a wildlife biologist, I know that relocating animals can be bad from a scientific standpoint. It can also easily injure the creature you’re trying to help.

Based on my experience as a scientist and university instructor, I have developed guidelines for when to participate in the lives of the animals I meet outside. When I intervene, it is after careful consideration of the underlying causes of the animal’s condition, the population status of the species, and the potential harm my actions may cause to the population as a whole, not just to one lovely creature.

reason for caution

Wild animals are genetically associated with specific habitats that have evolved over many generations. Relocating them may break those connections.

Moving animals means they cannot contribute offspring and genes to local populations through reproduction. This could be disastrous for species with slow population growth, such as many reptiles, which can take years to mature and may reproduce successfully only a few times in their lifetime.

For such species, mature females are essential to maintain high population sizes. When populations are small, they lose the genetic diversity that helps them resist environmental changes.

The migration of wild animals may also introduce new genes elsewhere, leading to changes in genes over time that have not evolved through natural selection. Animals that are successful in an area tend to leave more offspring, and the heritable genetic variation associated with success becomes more common and associated with the local environment. These are important relationships to maintain.

Moving animals also do direct damage. Transported animals often cannot survive in territories already occupied by other animals, or new arrivals may cause damage, such as predation on vulnerable native species. Wildlife managers may have to keep them in captivity, or even euthanize them.

Some species can transmit pathogens to other wildlife or humans. At the very least, moving animals can disorient them, making it difficult for them to settle down, find food and water, or hide from predators.

usually best to keep your distance

In general, your default choice should be to not disturb or interact with wildlife. Knowing that humans are nearby can stress animals out. It makes them leave or forage and behave differently, and it impairs their physical condition by triggering a stress response, ultimately reducing their fertility.

It is especially common for people to see a small animal or bird that looks lonely and feel the need to help. In fact, the parents may have been protective of their young and actively cared for them, or the young animals may have become independent.

The amount of parental care provided by different species varies from zero to a lot. For example, once a female sea turtle has selected a nesting site with warm temperatures and proper soil moisture, she lays her eggs and moves on. Newly hatched turtles don’t need help unless they’re near pets or the road.

Rattlesnakes bask in the sun to help their embryos be born healthy and healthy. Many mammals hide their young during the day and care for them for months.

Bluebirds and tree swallows work tirelessly to feed their young, even when they are fledgling. Other birds, by contrast, kick their young out at an early stage so they can start the next brood.

Whatever the species, a young and inexperienced animal without a parent around may be learning how to navigate, or being deliberately hidden by a parent.

Parents sometimes abandon their children. They may do this on purpose because their offspring are unhealthy, or because the parents are not healthy enough to support them. Perhaps the parents have lost their way. For whatever reason, natural selection may mean that these individuals, and their gene complexes, will not move on — to the benefit of the species as a whole.

Putting the needs of animals above your own

As we all know, being close to nature is good for people’s mental health. I think it is very important to promote the connection between people and nature and to promote this connection for people who have little exposure to the outdoors.

I am an advocate of a discreet and hands-on approach when being outdoors. For example, I don’t touch rare animals unless it’s part of my research or I have permission. If I handle aquatic animals, I make sure my hands are wet and free of chemicals.

However, the needs of the animals should come first. Whenever humans are active in an animal’s habitat, they destroy that habitat and cause the animal to seek other spaces.

Some wild animals may be abandoned or moved alone because they are sick or in poor health. People who handle these animals are at risk of contracting zoonotic diseases such as rabies, plague and bird flu. Sometimes unhealthy animals need to be kept alone to avoid spreading infection.

Still others will feign injury or death as a defensive tactic. Casual observers may think that a rescue is necessary, but don’t make assumptions. Virginia opossums, for example, play dead in an involuntary fixation response to fear known as defensive death. They can’t control it, but within a few minutes to a few hours, they return to normal.

when and how to help

Here are some guidelines on when and how to intervene in a way that minimizes harm to wildlife.

First, don’t relocate animals over great distances. Animals that accidentally hitchhike long distances (such as a tree frog under a bumper) should not be released into a new host area.

It’s okay to help the animal cross a busy road if you move the animal in the direction it’s already traveling. This is especially true for long-lived and slow-reproducing animals, such as box turtles, which are in decline in North America. Ensuring the survival of an adult female box turtle is very important to the success of the local population.

Second, follow the rules of national, state, and local parks. Parks often protect endangered species that cannot safely interact with humans. For example, desert tortoises may urinate as a defense when picked up, which reduces their internal water supply.

Learn to identify common species that satisfy human curiosity and make good ambassadors for biodiversity. Many national agencies have websites or atlases of major wildlife groups that can help you see which species are widespread or rarer. Most ponds have a common frog that is sure to catch your eye.

Third, if you think an animal is truly in danger, call your local game ranger, wildlife officer, rehabilitation specialist or park ranger for advice. If the animal is in immediate danger from pets or approaching cars, and you can reach it safely, put on gloves and help it – but let it go in the direction it is moving or close to its local area so it doesn’t get lost and Attempts to disperse into dangerous habitats.

Fourth, go out and explore. But remember, you are a guest of Habitat – walk softly and with respect. A single fallen log can shelter a variety of creatures. Check it out below and put it back in place so it continues to be their home. (dialogue)

(This is an unedited and auto-generated story from a syndicated news feed, the latest staff may not have modified or edited the body of content)


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