Taking care of stray wildlife in the suburbs

The first role model is the forest floor. The white spots on its brown coat resemble spotted sunlight streaming through the trees, breaking the outlines of a deer’s shape. Camouflage helps keep baby whitetail deer safe from bears and bobcats as the mother searches for food elsewhere.

While his mother is away, the antelope hides in the tall grass and remains vigil – eyes open and ears pricked, listening for movement. When the bunny returns, she feeds her baby’s milk and licks it all over to remove its odor. She licks her genitals to persuade dawn to urinate or defecate, then she may eat his droppings. Cleaning them ensures that predators won’t detect a whiff of their baby.

But sometimes the doe doesn’t come back – she might have been hit by a car. If a fawn is left alone for a long time, its ears are arched, indicating dryness, and flies may swarm around its unclean body, drawing attention. The tiniest deer are often too weak to stand, and in Westchester County, New York, many were found beside the carcasses of their deceased mothers on the side of the road, according to Patrick Moore, president of Animal Nation, a non-profit animal rescue organization. Group based in Rye, New York

Fortunately, Mr. Moore knows how to be a doe. If the facility at Animal Nation was crowded, which it often does, Mr. Moore would house the cows in his bathroom. There, he cleans them up, wiping out any worms that may have hatched from eggs laid in deer droppings. Every two to four hours, he feeds fake goat milk. He will rub the anal areas of the antelope to encourage them to produce litter, and his fingers mimic the mother’s tongue.

“The hardest thing is not to leave a mark on them,” said Mr. Moore. A young deer can easily think of itself as a human too, which makes it difficult to bring the animal back into Wild. So Mr. Moore was quick and silent in his work. It keeps the orphan flowers together so they can relate to their species. During children’s season, which peaks from May to September, he rarely gets more than four hours of sleep at a time.

After all, children’s season is more than just a fawn. There are groundhog chicks, baby hawks, large horned owls, and baby squirrels, which arrive in multiple littermates from spring to fall. Many are wounded and sick, and most are unable to support themselves.

Although he is the president of Animal Nation, Mr. Moore is an unpaid volunteer. He has a full-time job as a firefighter in the Bronx. This cumulative rescue work is exhausting, and Mr. Moore is exhausted. But if there is space in his house, he can only help the animals. “People say, ‘Let me visit your facility,'” he said. And I say, ‘You’re coming to my bathroom. “

Animal Nation, one of the few rehabilitation centers in Westchester, often reaches capacity and must stop accepting new creatures before the end of the year. But calls have skyrocketed during the pandemic, as people who were cocooned in offices have begun to spend more time outside. They found their costumes orphaned near the bike paths and chicks falling from their nests. Many city residents have moved to the suburbs, and some first-time homeowners are greeted by swarms of flying bats or squirrels, according to Jim Horton, owner of QualityPro Pest & Wildlife Services in Hawthorne, New York.

Some wildlife monitors euthanize so-called nuisance animals, but Mr. Horton takes the animals, which he takes to rehabilitation centers. It also helps Animal Nation with many of its most difficult calls. A few weeks ago, Mr. Horton climbed a 40-foot ladder to pull a baby raccoon from a tree. Earlier this year, he rounded up a family of pelicans who were trying to cross a park road and dropped them off at a nearby lake. He was also called to the aid of a bald eagle who thought he had been hit by a car, but which turned out to have lead poisoning.

Many of the calls Animal Nation receives are about baby animals without any distress whatsoever. Last week, someone called Mr. Horton about a baby bird she had found in her yard and put it in a box. Mr. Horton had a hunch that Altaïr’s mother might have been nearby, so he took bird back in and out of the box; Like clockwork, Mother Robin flew in to feed her newly released chick.

This error often occurs with elk left by their mothers in the backyard, which can appear deserted to the well-meaning viewer. “In the case of humans, the enemy of your enemy is your friend,” said Asia Murphy, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California, Santa Cruz, who has used camera traps to study elk in Pennsylvania. Dr. Murphy said coyotes, black bears and black bears avoid humans, so living alongside people can provide additional safety for deer.

When Mr. Horton receives a phone call about a fawn, he asks about his ears (are they crooked?) and his cleanliness (are there flies?). If both answers are no, Mr. Horton advises the caller to leave the antelope alone all night; Most often, the mother-to-be moves her baby to a new place the next day.

In any given year, wildlife rehabilitation professionals cannot predict the types of calls that may come in often. It seems that this year is the year of the parasite, Mr. Moore said. He and other rehabilitators are saddled with waterfowl full of vacuum worms, a parasite that lives and reproduces in a bird’s windpipe and causes it to pant or shake its head. Many of the mixtures the group took were infected with E. coli and therefore had diarrhea. Mr. Moore suspects the young stag gets it from the soil it eats.

“We have hot, humid, humid summers, which is what parasites thrive in,” Moore said, adding that winters that have been freezing and killing soil-bound parasites every year are getting warmer.

Mr. Moore first became a licensed wildlife rehabilitation specialist in New York State at the age of sixteen and hand-feed young birds in his mother’s home. Back then, he wanted to help every animal he could.

Now, at 32, he yearns for more systemic change. “People call you for that little shading,” he said. “But do we do a lot of research and do we keep track of which animals are problematic?” Mr. Moore often sends samples to state-run pathology laboratories. But resources are limited, especially for species considered invasive or non-threatened groups. There is always money and interest in bald eagles and peregrine falcons, Mr. Moore said, but less interest in squirrels and deer.

When licensed wildlife rehabilitation professionals in New York work with an animal too weak to recover, the only legal way they can kill the animal is by breaking its neck. Moore never did, he said, choosing instead to work with veterinarians who give their time for free.

For some of the animals Animal Nation takes in, euthanasia is the most humane option. Mr. Horton recently received a phone call about an abandoned fawn on the Pace University football field. From afar, the antelope looked fine. But when Mr. Horton approached him, the young deer stood up and revealed a curvature of his neck: a congenital defect, and the reason his mother abandoned him. Mr. Horton picked up the antelope and laid it on the floor mat of the passenger seat of his car, where he leaned as he drove. The birth defect at dawn meant that a merciful death was required.

Animal Nation volunteers receive up to 100 calls a day, and it’s impossible to answer all of them. While we were talking on the phone, a beleaguered Mr. Moore had just received a call about a baby pigeon in nearby Putnam County. He was also waiting to hear if a rescued bird of prey could be admitted to the Raptor Trust Center in Millington, New Jersey, an hour’s drive away. The facility, which has spacious flying enclosures to help injured birds learn to fly properly, has a waiting list.

“I don’t want to give up on little creatures,” said Mr. Moore. But his 16-year-old self didn’t necessarily have to share this unsustainable workload. “We need paid rehabilitation,” he said. “We need paid employees. We are doing our best.”

With baby season approaching, Animal Nation’s toenails will continue to wean and grow more steadily on their once-wobbly legs. The state requires all deer to be released by September 10, so Mr. Moore plans to do a soft release of the deer in August. “We open the doors and keep feeding them,” he said. “We let them come and go as they need to.”

Many of the animals that pass through the doors of Animal Nation will leave the facility and never be seen again. Birds fly away. “Possums can’t take care of you,” said Mr. Moore.

Others, like foraging squirrels, know to come back. And sometimes the cows return to Animal Nation early the following year, and the cars have broken their legs. Mr. Moore said it was easy to spot the mature deer he rehabilitated as dawn. “They will get too close to the gazelle,” he said. “And you know it’s your child.”