Experts believe recent warm weather and a lack of snow on the ground may be causing some confusion for native wildlife. The elevated temperatures during the month of February have led to an early wake-up call for some animals.
“We're definitely seeing the woods wake up earlier," said Peter Reid, assistant director of Wildlife in Crisis, a non-profit organization based in Weston. "Animals are rousing themselves from semi-hibernation and birds are seeking food sources," he said.
Reid said his volunteers care for more than 5,000 injured or orphaned animals each year.
“We nurture the animals, raise them, and the mission – the ultimate goal – is to release them back into nature," he said.
Among the many animals currently housed at the facility are red-tailed hawks, barred owls, great horned owls, falcons, hummingbirds, a raven, a raccoon, a fox, flying squirrels and a black-backed gull named Sully.
Photos: Warm Weather Sends ‘Mixed Signals’ to Native Wildlife
Wildlife in Crisis is busy and Reid thinks it will be more active soon.
“Warming trends do throw animals off their timetable," said Reid. “It's very unusual. It's been a strange winter and that does send mixed signals to wildlife.”
According to NBC Connecticut's First Alert meteorologists, this has been one of the warmest Februarys on record for parts of the state.
"We'll just see lots more baby birds and mammals, lots earlier than usual," said Reid.
Many wild animals are waking up and reproducing sooner than usual. Baby mammals and birds born earlier would be very vulnerable if and when a cold snap grips Connecticut, he added.
Reid anticipates that people may soon start seeing wildlife in distress and will bring those animals to the facility for help.
“You have these animals rousing themselves from semi-hibernation and in some cases, head out onto the road," said Reid. "There are very high road kill numbers in the spring so we'd ask motorists to be careful dawn and dusk."
“Wild animals are very pure beings and when you can help them and heal them and release them back into nature, that's very rewarding," said Reid.
Reid and the team at Wildlife in Crisis offered up these ways to help native wildlife around you:
- Leave trees standing, especially mature trees that provide shelter and mast for wildlife.
- Keep cats indoors and supervise dogs.
- Watch closely for wildlife when driving.
- Do not trap wildlife - you will only leave orphaned young behind.
- Eliminate pesticides, herbicides and rodenticides from your property.
- Create 'pollinator pathways' with native plants, which serve as natural food and shelter for animals.
- Garden gently to avoid harming frogs, salamanders and other species living on your property.
- Install nest boxes and feeders for songbirds.
- Pick up fishing line, netting, jars and other trash that harms wildlife.