Crows Deserve Love, Not Superstition

I have to admit: before I started working with wildlife, I had no idea that there were still people who had superstitious beliefs and fears about crows. It turns out these ideas didn’t get left behind in the Victorian Era where they belong. Even in 2020, a lot of people fear crows and some will even violate federal law by killing them.

It’s long past time to lay these myths to rest. Crows aren’t demonic and don’t have anything to do with Hell or the Devil. Like us, they’re simply families with animals trying to survive day to day. Crows are members of the same family as blue jays and are an important part of our ecosystem.

A crow’s brain is surprisingly similar to a human brain. Their intelligence tests on the same level as great apes and dolphins. They can solve complex puzzles, recognize hundreds to thousands of human words, and can communicate with us.

In the wild, crows form tight-knit relationships with their families. They form monogamous pairs for life and work together to raise their young. Crows are doting, loving creatures who clearly express grief and pain if they lose a friend or relative.

Please make a conscious effort to move past fear and superstition! Crows deserve our love.

Vultures are Related to Storks

Our native wild animals are so amazing! Vultures may seem, at first glance, to be the cousins of buzzards, hawks, eagles, owls and falcons. In the very least, you’d expect our vultures to be related to vultures from Africa, Europe, and Asia…. but they’re not!

Believe it or not, native vultures in the Americas are actually the relatives of storks. Traits they share with their stork cousins include the length of their legs, their tendency to poo on their legs to cool off, and their inability to vocalize. New World vultures even have a little bit of webbing between their toes!

Another key difference: while other birds of prey have little to no sense of smell, vultures from the Americas have an extremely strong sense of smell that enables them to find their meals!

Killing Coyotes Makes More Pups

Coyotes are among the most persecuted wild animals of North America. Have you ever wondered why they’re still very common, despite being heavily hunted?

When an adult coyote is killed, the social structure of its family, and nearby families, will fall apart. Its pups will be forced to disperse sooner, its territory will become wide-open, and its mate will seek another partner to breed with. This will cause what would have been non-reproducing animals to breed sooner, sometimes even out of season. Amazingly, biologists have also noted larger litter sizes in areas where coyotes are hunted.

Additionally, this upset social structure can have other unintended consequences: the younger, less experienced coyotes who find themselves suddenly raising their own families are much more likely to prey on pets and livestock and to wander into suburban areas in confusion and desperation.

We have no choice but to coexist with nature. Destroying animals solves nothing and helps no one, but can make “nuisance” wildlife even more abundant and problematic.

No Goat’s Milk for Wildlife

Wildlife rehabilitators routinely receive patients critically ill with anemia, diarrhea, nutrition-related hair loss, tooth decay, bloat, and other serious problems when people have tried to raise baby wild animals themselves. When we start taking information about the animal’s history, we all too often hear, “I’ve been feeding it goat’s milk.”

Regardless of what your Google search, your father-in-law, your Facebook group, or your former roommate told you, goat’s milk is not an acceptable milk substitute for any wild animal in our area. Yet, somehow, the myth persists that it is an ideal milk for opossums, raccoons, foxes, rabbits, bobcats, and many other animals that are definitely not baby goats.

Nature knew what it was doing when mammals developed their own individual milks. A rabbit, for example, has an extremely concentrated milk since they only feed their kits twice daily. A whale’s milk is full of massive amounts of fat to help their calves produce blubber. A kangaroo’s milk has almost no lactose and a human’s milk is full of specialized fats for brain development. Milk isn’t just a matter of being “nutritious,” but specifically formulated for each species. The wrong nutritional profile can prove fatal.

Goat’s milk is an excellent milk for raising baby goats, but if you’ve found a baby animal in need of help, please don’t feed it goat’s milk or any other milk. Bring it to a professional immediately so it can receive formula made for its own body.

What To Do About Tadpoles in Your Swimming Pool

Many frogs and toads breed in spring, which is also when you’re likely to start preparing your pool for summer. If your pool hasn’t been staying covered at all times (or if your pool cover has some rainwater pooled on top) there’s a chance you may end up with some unexpected guests: tadpoles!

Amphibians all over the world are in serious danger, with their populations plummeting every year. Please do your part to help by saving any tadpoles that hatch in your swimming pool or pool cover.

First, get a large bucket to move the tadpoles to. Fill it with distilled water or dechlorinated tap water. Although it’s likely that the chlorine slowly evaporated out of your pool over the winter, your tap water still contains enough chlorine and other harmful compounds that could be very dangerous to tadpoles.

You can collect the tadpoles using a large pool net and/or the small nets typically used for aquarium fish, and then deposit your little friends into the bucket.

Next, it’s time to find them another place to live. Ideally, this should be a clean, natural, pollution-free body of water within a mile of you.

If there’s nothing available to you nearby, please don’t give into the temptation to move them to another area. Amphibians naturally carry diseases that may be very minor to one population but catastrophic to another, and they don’t naturally move very much in a lifetime. Call a wildlife rehabilitator as soon as you possible so they can provide appropriate care until the tadpoles are ready for release.

Reptiles Feel Pain, Even If They Don’t Show It

Unless someone is a total sicko, they’ll almost always rush to the vet as soon as they can if they find an injured puppy. Our brains are full of specialized cells, called mirror neurons, that create empathy when we see an animal that expresses pain the way we do. So if a puppy is crying, grimacing, panting, and approaching us for help, we’re hard wired to feel distress until we’ve helped them.

It’s a beautiful fact of human nature, but unfortunately, it doesn’t extend to animals that are less like us. A reptile, amphibian, or fish has a central nervous system and can feel pain and stress. Although it can’t show its pain in the same way as a mammal, but that doesn’t mean the pain is not there. We need to make a conscious effort to remember that these creatures can and do feel pain even if we don’t see signs of it.

Please treat all animals with compassion and respect. Don’t hurt them, don’t neglect them, and please help them when they’re in need.

Rabies in coyotes? Rare and unlikely.

You might have read the very alarming news articles about a father in New Hampshire who strangled a coyote to death when it attacked his two-year-old. For Fox Sake commends this incredible dad for his strength and bravery in the face of such a terrifying incident.

Preying on humans is not normal behavior for a coyote. They are naturally extremely fearful, shy animals and there have only been two human deaths caused by coyotes in all of history. (Compare that to fifty each year in the U.S. caused by dogs.)

That’s why we weren’t surprised to hear that the coyote involved in this incident tested positive for rabies. Rabies often (but not always) makes animals unnaturally aggressive and fearless as the virus rages through the central nervous system.

In case you’re panicked about news involving rabid coyotes, we’d like to help calm fears by putting this risk in perspective.

In the 1990s, the strain of rabies seen most often in wolves, dogs, and coyotes was declared eradicated from the United States thanks to the rabies vaccine. While any mammal can get any strain of rabies, coyotes with other strains of rabies don’t live long and don’t “carry” the active virus without symptoms. There are no packs of rabid coyotes or rabid dogs in the U.S., and there haven’t been for decades.

The CDC, USDA, and state governments collect data on confirmed rabies cases all over the country. Bats, raccoons, skunks, foxes, and feral cats are consistently among the most common victims of rabies (though these cases are still relatively few). Coyotes rank at the very bottom of the statistical list, near rabbits and beavers and behind cattle and deer.

Any case of rabies is undoubtedly terrifying, but one rare, freak incident is not a reason to be fearful of an entire species that generally coexists with humans without incident. If you do see a coyote that appears sick or unnaturally aggressive, please don’t hesitate to contact authorities, but don’t rush to kill healthy animals simply because they’re the same species as an individual that got sick.

Do all skunks carry rabies?

It’s a common misconception that all skunks carry rabies. This myth probably had its start during a rabies outbreak in the 1800s that started in skunks and spread to dogs and trappers who got bitten while killing them.

We’ve come a long way since then, both in the prevention of rabies and in our understanding of it. There’s no reason to kill skunks because of outdated rabies fears!

It’s true that skunks can sometimes have rabies. Believe it or not, that’s true for any mammal, including squirrels and rabbits! While skunks are a more likely to have rabies than some species, only a very small number of skunks are actually infected with the rabies virus.

A skunk can’t transmit rabies to a person or animal unless the skunk is actually infected with rabies. And even then, rabies isn’t transmitted by simply existing on the same property— you would have to actually be bitten by the skunk or otherwise directly exposed to its fresh saliva (like through an open wound). If your pets are vaccinated, they are not at risk of catching rabies from a skunk, either— plus, they’re likely to stay away due to the smell.

It’s always wise to give wild animals space, but there’s no need to kill a healthy-looking skunk. Healthy skunks help to control rats, mice, hornets, grubs, and other pests, and are an important part of our native ecosystem. Don’t let unfounded fears keep you from enjoying the benefits that a skunk neighbor has to offer.

The Endangered Dusky Gopher Frog

People get excited about the idea of saving endangered species, but all too often, the most sensitive and critically endangered animals go unnoticed. The small, nondescript dusky gopher frog, for example, just doesn’t get the same attention as large, charismatic animals like tigers and elephants.

While they may not be particularly eye-catching, these little frogs are amazing. Since they’re very sensitive to habitat destruction and pollution, they’re considered an indicator species— a sign of whether an ecosystem is healthy. And they have an adorable behavior: when they see a predator, they use their front legs to cover their faces until the danger passes. (Awww! 🥰)

Dusky gopher frogs were last seen in Tennessee decades ago, when they were spotted twice in a wetland in Tullahoma. As pollution and development ravaged their habitat, their numbers eventually plummeted to only about a hundred individuals, living in two small ponds in Mississippi. Thankfully, several organizations are working to help the dusky gopher frog recover and eventually return to its native habitats in other area. Who knows? Maybe this rare animal will be back in Tennessee one day.

Why You Shouldn’t Feed Deer in Winter

Want to help wild deer survive the harsh winter? Don’t feed them!

During fall, a deer’s digestive system slowly changes to have a perfect combination of microbes and enzymes to digest its winter diet, which is mostly low-calorie woody vegetation. This amazing adaptation enables deer to survive long, lean winters with very little fresh food.

When suddenly fed supplemental foods like fruit and corn, the deer’s winter-adapted digestive system simply can’t adapt fast enough to properly digest these foods, and it will quickly succumb to acidosis, similar to what people with diabetes experience.

Some particularly healthy deer might survive being fed during winter, only to die later. Foods given by humans will disrupt the sensitive balance of the deer’s digestive system, making it unable to digest its normal winter diet, so it may die very slowly after several weeks of being unable to thrive on its ordinary winter staples. It may become weak, slow, or confused, or may suffer from bone deformities, or may grow skeletal and die of starvation.

Feeding deer can also encourage them to congregate unnaturally in one small area and to share a lot of germs, including those responsible for chronic wasting disease. Your good intentions could create ground zero for an epidemic!

Please don’t contribute to this problem. Enjoy your deer neighbors this winter without giving into the urge to “help” by feeding them.