Audubon program teaches how to handle baby animals found in the woods
By Kara Wilbeck
SHARON — Four animal-loving children and their five chaperones learned just about everything there is to know about baby animals at the Sharon Audubon Center on Saturday, May 7.
The program was led by Environmental Education Intern Sarah Conley, who started the afternoon off by introducing the children to the many animals that are housed in the main building.
In the first part of the program, the children (and the adults) learned what to do if they find a baby bird on the ground out in the woods.
Conley refuted the rumor that baby birds and eggs should not be touched for fear that their parents would abandon them. It turns out that birds don’t have a highly developed sense of smell well, and probably can’t tell if there’s human scent on their babies.
“If you see a baby bird or an egg, you can put it back in the nest,” Conley assured them.
However, if the bird is slightly older and is in the weaning stage (when the parent lets its young start to take care of itself) it’s best to leave it alone, even if it looks like it’s in trouble.
“Most of the time, it’s best to let them learn to be a grown-up bird on their own,” Conley advised.
She then switched from birds to baby mammals. While baby birds can be touched by humans, she warned, it’s not a good idea to touch baby mammals. They tend to have a better sense of smell and the scent of humans can be detected on the babies by the parents.
The children then played a guessing game, trying to name the baby animals shown in a series of photos that Conley held up. Some were more difficult, as the babies appeared very different from their full-grown parents.
The last photo shown in the guessing game was an easy one — a baby deer, or a fawn. Conley said that young deer are often left alone for hours at a time while their mothers are searching for food. The fawns will wait quietly and not move while the parents are gone. While an onlooker may think that the fawn has been abandoned, it most likely hasn’t been.
“If it’s not making any noise, it’s alright. It’s probably just waiting for its mother to come back,” Conley said.
Conley then took the group out for the main event: a walk around the Audubon Center to try and spot some baby animals.
While not too many babies were seen (it’s still early in the season) the group counted several nests, and even saw a mother goose sitting on her nest near a pond. The group also saw frogs in a small pond, several full-grown birds and a chipmunk (which followed the group around for a while).
After the walk around the property, the children got to explore the Audubon aviary, where the birds in rehabilitation are kept. There were vultures, a raven, a bald eagle, a red-tailed hawk, a kestrel and many other species. The group also got to watch the birds get a meal of raw fish scraps, which are donated to the Audubon by the Sharon Farm Market.
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