Helpful Spring Wildlife Tips

Apr 29, 2019

Spring is a busy time of year for Wisconsin’s wildlife.

Here is the Masked Biologist with a few springtime wildlife tips for this week’s Wildlife Matters.

Spring has been giving winter a run for it’s money, and although we may still have remnants, reminders or memories of the winter we’ve come through, wildlife has embraced spring. Here are a few thoughts about what we usually see this time of year, and what preparations or precautions you might want to take if any. Snakes are emerging from hibernation. If you don’t want them near your home or buildings, keep grass trimmed low or place decorative rock around foundations to make them feel less welcome.

Now is also the time to think about bat exclusion. Bats are very flexible, and can squeeze through any crack large enough for a pencil. Fill cracks with caulk or spray foam now to deter bats, or hang a flap of window screen over openings to let them out but not back in. Bird house boxes and feeders should be empty, clean and dry. Make sure they have ventilation holes on the bottom and two sides.

Skunks and badgers will start digging up lawns, if they haven’t already. They are attracted to the grubs living underground. Treat your grass with a grubkiller and these animals will have no reason to stick around.

Hummingbirds will be looking for meals. If you put up hummingbird feeders, make sure they are not attractive to bears. Do not put red dye in them, and look for commercial feed that is dye free. Otherwise consider landscaping with durable perennials like lilies that attract hummingbirds year after year, but not necessarily bears.

Birds have been busy establishing and defending territories and attracting mates for weeks. They are easily triggered into fights and territorial displays right now. Their reflections appear as a threatening interloper, and they will beat themselves senseless trying to drive away their reflection. If you have a window where a robin simply won’t stop repeatedly attacking it, tape a piece of white paper to the inside, or a piece of pink or orange flagging on the outside of the glass. The paper makes the reflection less realistic, or gets rid of it almost completely. The ribbon flutters in the slightest breeze and distracts the bird from the reflection it would otherwise attack.            

Foxes sitting at the end of driveways is a common springtime call. Fox kits are often born in dry culverts, and left unattended while the parents are out hunting. As they get older, they start to venture out of the den and can be seen sitting by road intersections, bridges and driveways. They are not abandoned, just bored kids waiting for their next meal.

Turkeys are very visible on the roads right now, and since it is their breeding season, they are not concentrating on avoiding your vehicle. Slow down when you see turkeys in the road, and look in the ditches and roadsides in case more birds are waiting to try to get into the act.

Deer are highly visible during this time as well. They are feeding to restore body weight lost during the wintertime. Does are getting ready to drop fawns, or some may have already delivered and are nursing, which means they need more food for milk production. While deer normally are most active at dawn and dusk, this time of year you can really expect to see them any time of day. Again, when you see them along roadsides, slow down and expect that there may be more deer that you cannot see nearby.

Finally, if you want to attract wildlife to your yard, consider planting wildlife friendly trees, shrubs, and flowers. The local garden center can help advise you of great options for low maintenance plant options that will attract pollinators. Planting fruiting trees like crabapples can attract a variety of birds and wildlife that use the fruit in late summer, fall, winter, and early spring.

Obviously this is a very quick glance at a broad array of ideas, but here’s the point. Now is the time to think about what you can do to attract wildlife, help wildlife, or prevent accidental harm to wildlife.

Striving to make new things familiar and familiar things new, this is the Masked Biologist coming to you from the heart of Wisconsin’s great Northwoods.