As people and animals occupy the same areas more and more frequently, human-animal interactions are inevitable. To minimize risks associated with these interactions, education is essential.
In spite of education and planning, humans and animals sometimes clash. In most cases no harm is done, but occasionally, humans or wildlife are injured or even killed.
Under pressure from the public, politicians, regulators and wildlife managers have enacted and implemented a number of regulations which concern wildlife interactions.
Typically, the public respects wildlife-related regulations and enforcement personnel use common sense when interpreting laws and regulations. Sadly, exceptions to these practices are occurring more and more frequently.
During the summer of 2011, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) received national media attention regarding a youngster and her mom who picked up a baby woodpecker they felt was threatened by the family cat and took it home, eventually releasing it back into the wild.
According to multiple media reports, a “special agent” noticed the event and later served the mother with a large fine.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service later voided the ticket, admitting that the citation should never have been issued, and the Service apologized to the family for the incident.
According to USFWS, the following guidelines are applicable to situations where a bird appears to be in danger:
If someone determines that the bird is really orphaned (the parents are known to be dead) or if the bird is visibly injured, a wildlife rehabilitator should be called.
Rehabilitators have the knowledge, training and required permits that enable them to legally and properly care for a bird.
A rehabilitator will be able to instruct concerned citizens about what to do to care for the bird until it can be placed in their care.
Rehabilitators can by found by visiting: http://wildliferehabinfo.org/ContactList_MnPg.htm
Wildlife enthusiasts can also contact their state fish and wildlife agency or local U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service office to provide assistance.
According to USFWS, there are Federal laws that protect birds (most specifically the Migratory Bird Treaty Act) and in most cases it is not legal for an individual to possess a wild bird.
For a list of Fish and Wildlife Service offices, visit www.fws.gov