It seems that every spring, when my mother visits me on her yearly reverse-snowbird trip from Florida to Massachusetts, we experience drama in the natural world right outside my house.
Spring in Virginia is indeed a dramatic time for many wildlife species because of their mating and birthing habits. This fact of wildlife biology combined with the healthy habitat that surrounds my yard, from dense, unruly woods to old outbuildings that offer quiet and shelter, means that I should anticipate wildness and drama around my home, especially during springtime. And yet every spring something catches my mother and me off guard.
Two years ago, my mom and I, looking up from weeding the garden, saw a sickly-looking doe plodding across the yard, her gait wobbly and languid and her tongue hanging out of her mouth. Later a wildlife biologist told me that, based on the doe’s appearance and the time of year, she was more than likely pregnant and simply seeking a place to give birth.
Last year springtime drama played out when an Eastern Phoebe nested in rafters a dozen feet above the outdoor concrete staircase that leads to the root cellar. The nest was jam packed with four fuzzy nestlings that fidgeted and jockeyed for position. A week after hatching, two of the babies fell out of the nest onto the concrete steps. Afraid to move their tiny, fragile bodies to safer ground, my mother and I hoped the parents would hear their peeps and be able to care for them. Although the two nestlings did not survive, their siblings fledged successfully.
The most recent drama happened several mornings ago when my mom and I found a soft corkscrew of rust colored, white dotted fur on the lawn. It was a fawn curled up in the grass. Well-meaning but careless, we got too close and startled it awake. It bleated and unsteadily bounded several hundred yards away, vanishing into a meadow that edges the yard. That evening my mom and I passed binoculars back and forth and watched the fawn reunite with its mother.
In all three instances my mother and I researched what to do after noticing the animals. This was not proactive. It’s better to learn what to do, and what not to do, before coming upon a wild animal.
On June 20, at 6:30 p.m., the library’s Myths & Facts Virginia Wildlife Series will host Judy Loope of the Southwest Virginia Wildlife Center of Roanoke in a talk on what to do if you find a young wild animal or an animal that appears sick or injured. Judy will explain how to determine if an animal is in need and what, if any, action to take. Judy will bring with her several animals that have received rehabilitative care. Bruce Young, a conservation police officer with the Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries, and wildlife artist Carol Yopp will also join us.