AUGUSTA — With spring in full bloom, people getting out and Maine’s wildlife broods growing, the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has some simple steps to prevent young from being separated from their mothers.
The department reports that in recent weeks, two bears were shot and killed in Maine by either a member of the public or a local police department because the animals posed a threat to public safety. One was a sow who had three cubs nearby.
The bears either were attracted to a backyard bird feeder or to garbage and food waste left outside in the neighborhood. There are a few simple solutions people can take to substantially reduce the dangers posed by bears near their homes and situations where a bear may have to be killed.
Here are some common-sense things you can do to help everyone live safely with bears, fawns, moose, Piping Plovers and other wildlife — and to appreciate wildlife and their behaviors from afar.
Abide by the addage: “If You Care, Leave Them There” (fawns, robins, raccoons, moose calves and other young wildlife). This is the time of year when many encounter baby fawns, robins, raccoons and other young wildlife in their back yards and woodlands.
MDIF&W reminds people that most of the time these animals are not abandoned, they are waiting for the parents to return with food. Leave the young alone. Young wildlife is often picked up by well-meaning people in the mistaken belief that they have been left behind. The mother-young bond is very strong in mammals and birds, and parents will return given the opportunity to do so with out human interference.
In most instances, says IF&W. if you come across any healthy young wild animal or bird, leave it alone. The mother will come back to care for it, as long as humans move a distance away to let the family reassemble. If you have pets, put them inside your home or leash them so they can’t disturb the young wildlings.
If, however, you think an animal may be orphaned, call an MDIF&W regional biologist to see whether that is the caseDo not pick it up and take it home. Wild birds and mammals do not make good pets; and it’s against the law to possess them without the proper state and federal permits.
Every spring, moose calves and deer fawns are brought to the Maine Wildlife Park in Gray or to wildlife rehabilitators and the majority of them are not orphans. Here is what you should do if you see young wildlife or birds:
Fawns and moose calves: If you encounter a fawn, leave it alone. The adult mother returns only 2-3 times a day to young fawns to nurse them, otherwise leaving them stashed in a protected place and relying on their camouflage and lack of scent to protect them from predators. As soon as fawns are able to keep up with mom, they travel more with her as she forages for food.
Squirrels or Raccoons: If a nest of squirrels or raccoons must be disturbed, (for example if a tree has been cut down or fallen) leave the young in the den part of the tree and leave them nearby in a protected place. The mother will in all likelihood come back and transport them to a new location.
Birds: The same is true for a bird’s nest. Put the nest and nestlings into a nearby tree, supported in a basket or other container that has drainage. The mother robin or blue jay is probably right around the corner, and will return to feed the young and care for them until they can fly on their own.
Piping Plovers: The endangered Piping Plovers nesting season is underway in Maine, and beachgoers and their pets are urged to stay far away from nests on beaches in southern Maine.
Piping Plovers are an endangered shorebird species that nest on white sand beaches where nesting success is a constant struggle against weather, beachgoers, pets, and predators. They were listed on the state’s Endangered Species List in 1997, and were federally listed as Threatened Species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1986.
Piping Plovers are small, pale shorebirds whose sandy brown and white colorings act as camouflage to protect them from predators. Unfortunately, because their camouflage works so well, many people and their pets do not see them or their sand-colored eggs. Subsequently, nests and eggs can be easily and inadvertently destroyed.
Piping Plovers are approximately 7.5 inches high and weigh up to 2.5 ounces. They have long yellow legs, short necks, and a broken brown or black necklace band on their chest.
Currently the state only has 26 nesting pairs of them. Plovers are nesting or with broods on Ogunquit Beach, Wells Beach, Parsons Beach, Goose Rocks Beach, Fortunes Rocks Beach, Goose Fare Brook, Scarborough Beach, Higgins Beach, Seawall Beach, Popham Beach State Park, and Reid State Park. Nesting areas are identified with signage and stake and twine fencing.
“From a Piping Plover’s point of view, people and dogs are predators,” according to MDIF&W Wildlife Biologist Lindsay Tudor. “Plovers do not understand leashes and dogs under voice control, and they do not recognize dogs that would never touch a bird. If beachgoers or their dogs are too close to Piping Plovers and their chicks, the adults will attempt to draw away the danger. Unfortunately, chicks left alone are easy prey for crows and gulls lurking nearby.”
To retain this bird in Maine protecting every nest and chick is vital. The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, Maine Audubon, Bureau of Parks and Lands, Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge, the Nature Conservancy, Bates College, towns of Wells, Ogunquit, Old Orchard Beach, Scarborough, and many private landowners have a long standing collaboration regarding managing piping plovers.
To protect our last few endangered Piping Plovers, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, along with its partner, Maine Audubon, are urging beachcombers to:
· Avoid taking their dogs to beaches that currently have nesting Piping Plovers.
· Be on the lookout for the tiny Piping Plover chicks. Once they hatch, they leave the nest (designated with signs and stake-and-twine fencing), and are extremely vulnerable to a host of predators. Chicks are flightless for 25-35 days, feeding themselves in the company of their parents.
· Stay away from the stake-and-twine fencing identifying protective nesting areas. If you want to observe the Piping Plovers, do so from a great distance with high-powered binoculars.
Bears: To minimize exposure to nuisance bears, we suggest the following:
· Bring in your bird feeders and rake up the seed that has fallen underneath the bird feeder. You can resume feeding birds later in the summer after berries have ripened providing a natural food source for bears.
If you continue to feed birds during the spring and summer months, IF&W encourages you to
· Bring your bird feeder in at night but be aware bears may still raid your bird feeder during the day
· Rake up all of the seed underneath the bird feeder each night, otherwise bears will be eat the seed that remains.
· Store your seed in a secure location (garage, barn, outbuilding, basement).
· If a bear visits your feeder, bring your feeder in and do not replace the feeder for several weeks after the bear was last seen in your area.
· Store garbage and garbage cans in the garage or basement until trash day
· Bring your garbage to the curb on the mornings of pickup.
· Use dumpsters with heavy metal lids that latch shut. Keep the lids and self-closing doors shut. If garbage is overflowing, contact the trash hauler to pick it up.
· Do not compost foods in your back yard that have a strong food odor (fish, meat).
· For grills, burn off as much of the meat and grease as possible and then brush or scrape grills clean. Grills should be stored in a closed garage or shed.
· Bring pet food dishes inside at night.
· Store all livestock feeds and other seeds in a secure location.
· Encourage your neighbors to take the same steps that you are to deter bears, otherwise the conflicts with bears will continue.
· When camping, put food and other items with an odor, including candy, toothpaste, suntan lotion and soap, in sealed containers. If camping near your vehicle, keep the sealed containers in it. Never store food or candy in your tent or sleeping quarters. If food or other odorous items cannot be stored, locate a tree that is 50 feet or more from the campsite, and place the food in a “bear bag” that is at least 12 feet above the ground and 10 feet from the nearest tree trunk. Alternatively, food can be placed in a bear-proof plastic barrel (commercially available) and placed away from the campsite. After meals, store all leftovers and immediately wash dishes. Dump the dishwater away from the camp or use a sump hole to filter the water, and then burn the food scraps. Carefully burn all leftover food, wrappers and grease. Don’t bury them or throw them in a latrine.
· If a bear shows up in your backyard, stay calm. Shout at it like you would to chase an unwanted dog. Most bears are timid enough to be scared away by yelling, waving or banging pots. Check first before going outside. Black bears blend into night skies, thus providing the chance of an encounter. Use outside lights to full advantage and look outside from a safe position, such as a porch or window.
· Never approach a bear.