Frequently Asked Questions About Animals
If you don’t find the answer to your wildlife question on this page, call us at (860) 536-1216.
If I return a baby bird to its nest, will the mother go back to it?
Yes. Most birds have a poorly developed sense of smell and will continue to care for their young, even if humans have handled them.
I’ve found a baby bird alone on the ground and it doesn’t have feathers yet. What should I do?
Try to find the nest and put the bird back in it. The bird is helpless without the mother and has a low chance of survival if removed. If you cannot find the nest, make one out of a berry basket or small container and securely place it in a tree, shrub or other nearby location. The parents will find the nestling when it chirps for food.
I’ve found a baby bird alone on the ground and it is fully feathered. What should I do?
This bird is a fledgling; it has just left the nest and will spend the next 24-72 hours learning how to fly, find food, and develop other survival skills. The parents are most likely watching from nearby, and will continue to care for it. Keep pets inside, and move the baby bird to cover beneath a nearby shrub. The parents will not return while you are around, so leave the area and observe from afar.
There is a bird repeatedly flying into my window and I’m afraid it will get hurt. What do I do?
The bird sees its reflection in the glass, and thinks it’s a rival bird. Male birds typically chase other males out of their territories during mating season. Try to break the reflection by putting something on or near the glass on the outside of the window. Tack sheer fabric or fly some balloons or strings of yarn that will flutter in the wind.
When do I put out a hummingbird feeder? When should I take it down?
Hummingbirds will usually return to southeastern Connecticut around April 15, but you can put the feeder up as early as April first to feed early arrivals. Leave the feeder up until the end of September or as long as hummingbirds still come to it. Hummingbirds flying south rely on temperature, day length and other environmental cues to start migration. Your feeder may help them survive an early cold snap, but will not keep them from making their southward journey.
What is the formula for hummingbird nectar?
Mix four parts water with one part sugar. Heat just to a boil and remove. Do not add red food coloring. Let the solution cool before filling the feeder. Change the solution often, especially during warm weather.
Should I feed the birds in the summertime?
It is not necessary because birds have enough natural food in the wild, but it does not harm them, and is a good way to attract birds to your yard. Resident seed-eating birds may bring their families to your feeder. Wild birds welcome water during times of drought.
Can I feed birds peanut butter?
Yes, but many species seem to prefer peanut butter when mixed with seed, oats, bread crumbs, dried fruit, nuts or berries.
What can I feed bluebirds in winter?
Offer them mealworms, plain fruit or suet mixed with fruit. Another option is to get beef suet from the meat counter at the grocery store and use a grater to shred it into “worms” for the birds.
How can I keep other birds from nesting in my bluebird house?
English sparrows commonly intrude upon bluebird boxes. They are serious competitors and sometimes predators of bluebirds. If there is an English sparrow nesting in your bluebird house, remove the nest and eggs to discourage it from returning. They are persistent, so you may have to do this several times. Because this sparrow is an introduced species, it is legal to remove the nest and eggs. It is not legal to remove the eggs of house wrens, chickadees or tree swallows. These native birds also use bluebird boxes. Be sure to locate your nest box away from thickets (preferred by house wrens) and install extra boxes in a variety of locations.
There are starlings or other birds nesting in my dryer vent. What should I do?
If it doesn’t interfere with the operation of the vent, leave the nest there until the babies fledge. If the nest does interfere with the operation of the vent, remove it and place the nest in a tree or shrub near the house where the parents will find it.
There’s a bird in my house or office building. What should I do?
Turn off all the lights, and open up the windows and doors. If it is already dark out, leave the windows open until dawn, when the bird may once again try to head for the light.
Should I feed swans or geese?
No. Large numbers of geese and swans can pose a nuisance on small ponds and coves, and feeding them may encourage more aggressive behavior and a dependence on us for food.
How can I keep geese off my lawn?
Spread some netting about 2 inches off the ground. The geese won’t like the feel of the netting and will become discouraged. If you have a pond, put some stakes in the ground around it and tie some string between the stakes, at 8 inches and 24 inches high (the height of the goose’s neck). Better yet, don’t remove the natural vegetation or create lawns around pond edges. Since geese like grass and low vegetation, they tend to avoid ponds with bushy edges.
I’ve uncovered a nest of baby bunnies and the mother isn’t around. What should I do?
Baby bunnies have a very low survival rate when removed from the nest. It is likely the mother is nearby, so cover the nest with vegetation and leave the bunnies in place.
I’ve found a baby bunny or squirrel alone. What should I do?
If the baby is fully furred and alert, it may have recently left the nest as it becomes increasingly independent and learns to forage on its own. If the eyes are closed, try to find the nest and return the bunny or squirrel to it. If a cat or other predator has taken the baby from the nest, and you cannot locate the nest, contact a local wildlife rehabilitator.
Skunks, Foxes and Raccoon
There’s a skunk living under my porch. How do I get rid of it?
A skunk is a rabies vector species, which means it has the potential to carry and transmit rabies, so do not attempt to trap or capture it. Put moth balls under the porch or spray ammonia around the entry hole. The skunk may not like the smell and move elsewhere. Once it has relocated, close off the space with lattice or another type of barrier.
I see a fox, skunk or raccoon acting strangely. What should I do?
Foxes, skunks and raccoon, which usually come out in the evening, are rabies vector species, which means they can potentially carry and transmit rabies. If you should see one of these animals exhibiting any one of the following behaviors, leave it alone and call your local animal control officer or rehabilitator:
- Animal is wandering around shaking its head and growling.
- Animal is aggressive, shows no fear and charges you for no apparent reason.
- Animal is curled up and sleeping in an open area during daylight.
These are potential symptoms of the rabies virus. It is illegal to trap or remove these animals from the property alive.
Do coyotes eat cats?
Coyotes prefer carrion and small animals like rabbits, squirrels and mice. A hungry coyote that can’t find food will take what it can, so we suggest you keep your small pets inside, especially at night.
How do I stop squirrels from getting into my birdfeeder?
Place the birdfeeder at least 10 feet from any tree or shrub from which the squirrel can jump. Or buy a baffle. A baffle is a dome-shaped piece that can be attached to a hanging feeder, or cylinder-shaped piece to attach to a pole feeder. The Nature Center store stocks these items, as well as squirrel-proof feeders and books about outwitting squirrels.
How do I get a squirrel out of my fireplace or chimney?
Open the flue, the fireplace doors, and an outside door of your house. Put some cracked corn in the fireplace. Hopefully the squirrel will come for the corn, then feel the fresh air coming from your open door and head for it. Once the squirrel is out, put a cap on the chimney.
There are gray/flying squirrels nesting in my attic. What should I do?
Gray squirrels will leave during the day to forage for food. Watch for the squirrel to leave, then block off its entry points. Flying squirrels are nocturnal. Wait for the flying squirrel to leave in the evening to forage for food, then block off any entry points. If either of these have babies, you must wait until the babies are old enough to leave and forage on their own before blocking off access. If these strategies don’t work, you can live trap them, and re-release the squirrels a good distance from your home. Removing large, overhanging trees or branches will help discourage squirrels from using your attic as a nest site.
How can I discourage Woodchucks from burrowing in my yard?
To discourage woodchucks from taking up residence in your yard, or to encourage burrow abandonment, remove undergrowth and brush from around houses or buildings that they have burrowed under.
How can I keep deer from eating my plants?
There are common household remedies that sometimes work. Hang mothballs, strong soap or human hair in nylon stockings on the plants, or place chicken wire on the ground around the plants. Commercial deer repellents, available at the Nature Center Store, are the most effective when used consistently.
Bears, Moose and Bobcats
Is it possible that I might see a bear, moose or bobcat in southeastern Connecticut?
Connecticut’s state Department of Environmental Protection reports that bear sightings in Connecticut are on the rise. While the majority of these sightings are in the northern and northwestern part of the state, southeastern Connecticut has the largest tract of forest with potentially suitable habitat for bears. Bear sightings in eastern Connecticut are becoming more frequent. You can learn more bear facts as well as important do’s and don’ts, from our PowerPoint presentation.
There have not been recent reports of moose in southeastern Connecticut. But moose love wetlands, so it is possible in the future that there will be sightings of moose in our area. Current data indicates there is one breeding pair of moose in the state.
Bobcats are found throughout Connecticut. They are very shy creatures, and seldom seen by people. However, the Nature Center still receives reports of bobcats in our area.
Are Fishers dangerous to people or their pets?
Fishers are a relatively new arrival to southeast Connecticut. According to Paul Rego of the CT DEP, the local population radiated into this area from New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. The DEP released some animals in the northwest portion of the state. Females average about 6 or 7 pounds and have a home range of around 3 square miles. Males can get up to about 17 pounds and have a home range of around 9 square miles. They are members of the weasel family and have retractable claws so they are excellent climbers. One of their favorite foods is squirrels. They also appear to be able to predate on domestic cats, especially in winter when they are hungry enough to risk injury from another predator. However there are other predators that eat cats such as the Great Horned Owl that nests in January and February and Coyotes.
Can I release a turtle that I bought at a pet shop?
No. Releasing non-native species and captive-bred turtles can be harmful to the environment because of the likelihood of spreading disease, and the possibility of introducing a potential pest into a natural ecosystem.
I saw a turtle in the road. What should I do?
Many turtles, including painted turtles and snapping turtles, leave the water and move to land to lay their eggs. They are not lost. Move the turtle across the road in the direction it is heading. If the turtle is a large snapper, put both hands on the sides of its shell, towards the rear, keeping your fingers away from its head.
I found a turtle (snapping, painted, spotted, or box). Should I bring it to the Nature Center?
No. It is best to leave turtles where you find them. They may die trying to get back home if relocated.
Do poisonous snakes live in southeastern Connecticut?
The Northern Copperhead is the only venomous snake you are likely to encounter in southeastern Connecticut. It favors hilly, low-lying areas, including rocky hillsides and bushy ridges. People often confuse the copperhead with the non-venomous Eastern Milk Snake. The only other venomous snake found in Connecticut is the Timber Rattlesnake, which is often confused with the harmless Eastern Hognose. The Timber Rattlesnake is not found in southeastern Connecticut.