The important thing to remember is that animals care for their young in different ways than humans do. When you see an "abandoned" animal, chances are good that it is not truly abandoned. The mother is usually close by, even if she isn't necessarily visible.
Frequently Asked Questions
Please see below for some commonly asked questions about animals. If you need further information, contact the Animal Information Line at (314) 646-4549. Please note that the Saint Louis Zoo regrets it is unable to pick up wild animals. Please contact a local wildlife rehabilitation center for more information.
Q: Why are birds tapping on my window?
A: Birds have a difficult time distinguishing the fact that a window exists - often they do not realize that a barrier is there and will attempt to fly through it, resulting in a rather startling and sometimes fatal crash. This is especially true for young birds that were just born this past spring. Ways to help prevent this include: putting up decals of hawks or owls or covering the window.
Additionally, if a bird is consistently "tapping," the chances are that it sees its reflection as another bird it must challenge for territory or food. The tapping is an attempt to drive the intruder away. Again, putting up silhouettes of hawks or owls will help to discourage this behavior. Covering the inside of the window probably will not be an effective deterrent, as the bird will still be able to see its reflection. If desired, an outside window covering could be used.
Q: I am seeing birds at my feeder/birdbath that I have never seen before! Why is that?
A: Early spring and early fall are times when birds migrate. Over half of the world's bird species migrate! They are visiting food and water sources on their journey to their wintering grounds. There are several migratory species that pass through Missouri, many of which are not seen year round.
Q: Why don't some birds, like cardinals or owls, migrate?
A: Migration is driven by the need for food. Birds that do migrate are unable to find their food in one location year round. Think of hummingbirds - they feed on the nectar of flowers. In the winter, there are no flowers blooming in our region, so they have to travel south to find flowers that are in bloom. Birds that do not migrate are able to find food year-round, and so they do not need to leave in the winter time.
Q: Why am I seeing so many more deer?
A: Fall and early winter is deer rutting, or mating, season. Bucks will roam extreme distances in search of does and can be very aggressive. The does and fawns are also traveling in search of carbohydrate-rich foods to help them make it through the lean winters.
This time of year, drivers need to be especially aware of deer near roads. November has the highest rate of deer-related car accidents, and over half of all deer-related car accidents occur September thought January. Dusk and dawn are the times of days that pose the highest risk for hitting a deer. If you do strike a deer with your car, pull over and contact authorities. Do NOT approach the injured deer, as it could hurt you or injure itself further.
Q: Why do animals hibernate? When will animals go into hibernation?
A: Hibernation is a way an animal can conserve energy during the cold months by going into what is essentially a deep sleep. Its temperature falls, its breathing slows, its metabolism drops, and its fat reserves are used to power the few necessary body functions needed to survive (such as breathing and heart beating). It is important not to attempt to wake a hibernating animal - the animal knows when it is time to "wake up" and being awakened early can be very detrimental to its health.
Exactly when an animal goes into hibernation depends upon the species, and animals that are able to find food year round do not need to hibernate. If you have an animal that normally needs to hibernate, contact your veterinarian for hibernation help!
Spring and summer are the seasons when animals become more visible than they have been in previous months. They come out of hibernation, return from their wintering grounds in the south and also expand their families. This heightened visibility usually leads to questions about how to care for "abandoned" baby animals, including fawns, rabbits, squirrels and baby birds.
Q: What should I do if I see baby rabbits/fawns/birds without their mom?
A: The best option is to leave the baby animal alone. The mother or father will not return while you are present, and trying to help by feeding or moving the baby could cause more harm than good. The best thing to do is simply to turn around and walk away.
Q: A baby bird fell out of its nest. Should I put it back?
A: While it is tempting to put baby birds back into their nests, this is actually how birds learn to fly. The mother is probably close by keeping an eye on it. As the baby gets bigger and stronger, you will most likely see it attempting to fly. It may look funny, but this is the learning process and one day you'll notice that the baby bird is gone.
Q: What should I do if I see a turtle crossing the road?
A: If you see a turtle crossing the road and you can safely stop and pick up the turtle, pull over to the shoulder and move the turtle to the side of road in the direction it is moving. Make sure you use two hands to hold it like a hamburger, ensuring not to turn the turtle upside down. Also, make sure to stay away from its head. However, if the road is too busy or you do not feel is it safe to stop, don't!
Q: There is a snake hanging out on my driveway. Why is it there?
A: Snakes are reptiles and are ectothermic animals. This means that their body temperature changes with their environment. If it's laying in your driveway, it is sunning itself to warm up its body. The best thing to do is leave the snake alone. When it is warm enough, it will move along. Snakes are actually very handy to have around as they eat mice and rats. You can determine what type of snake it is, and what snakes are found in your area, by visiting the Missouri Department of Conservation.