Holiday Tips – Happy Homes with Happy Hounds

Thanksgiving is almost here! Christmas is right around the corner!
(Just typing that out was stressful for me.)

Not only can the holidays be stressful for us, but they are especially stressful for our animal companions.  Changes in our routines, the many visitors coming and going, and our stress levels can create havoc in our homes, and affect our pets.

When we combine all of those factors, we can create the “perfect storm”.  Dog experts correlate the increase in dog bites during the holidays to the increase in commotion and stress in our homes.

Thankfully, the folks at DoggoneSafe created these helpful tips to keep everyone happy and safe this holiday season:

holiday pet tips

Check out more helpful holiday tips here!

Please share these tips with your family and friends!  Educating each other is how we keep everyone safe and happy!

“May your walls know joy, may every room hold laughter, and every window open to great possibility.” – Mary Anne Radmacher

Oh My Word! Baby Birds!

Life is as dear to a mute creature as it is to man. Just as one wants happiness and fears pain, just as one wants to live and not die, so do other creatures. – His Holiness The Dalai Lama

baby bird _house sparrow Newborn We recently moved into a new home. As with most moves, there are circumstances that you cannot control, and we have had our share this move.  Our landlord has been building on an addition to the house since before we moved in, and the construction still continues.  During all of the banging and vibrations, we discovered an active bird’s nest in the exterior wall.  We had been monitoring the nest for weeks, but this weekend we heard the wee cries of new hatchlings!

As exciting as this was, we knew that we had to make a decision quickly because the construction crew was scheduled to come the next day to seal up the exterior wall with insulation and drywall. The nest was going to be sealed in there with live baby birds! We put our heads together, identified the bird species, did some bird fact checking, and came up with the best solution for this species … We relocated the nest.


NOTE: Nesting songbirds are protected by federal law, which prohibits moving their nests!

In the United States it’s illegal to remove or destroy any active nest from any native bird species.  An active nest is defined as “a nest with eggs or brooding adults in it”.  If the nest has been abandoned or no eggs have yet been laid, it can be removed or destroyed as needed.

House Sparrows (Passer domesticus) and  European starlings, are not native birds. This is how we knew that it was legal to relocate the nest.

The images below show how we did it. I am sharing this to help others if they encounter a similar situation with native or nonnative bird species.

If you click on/scroll over the images above, you can see how and what we were doing.  Please note that this entire process happened very quickly, to reduce the amount of stress on the parents and the offspring.  After we moved the baby birds to the new nest area, we c l e a r e d ourselves out of the area, to allow the parents to feel safe enough to explore the area and listen for their offspring.

As we had hoped, Mother Nature and the maternal and paternal instincts saved the day! Just hours later, the cries of the hatchlings were heard and the parents found their offspring!  The mother and father are now guarding their recently relocated nest.

My husband holds the hatchling birds as I prepare a new, safer nest for them
My husband holds the very vulnerable hatchlings as I prepare a new, safer nest for them. Mom and dad watched us the entire time.

The next day we bought a bird feeder and offer them seed they prefer.

We found a very sturdy double seed bird feeder at Lowe's for $5!  I set it up in a tree that I often see the parents hanging out in. I also added some biodegradable nesting material; they have been using it already! yay!

We found a very sturdy double seed bird feeder at Lowe’s for $5! I set it up in a tree that I often see the parents hanging out in. I also added some biodegradable nesting material; they have been using it already! yay!

If you have found this article while searching for help on ‘how to move a bird’s nest’, or ‘how to help a baby bird’ it’s very important that you correctly identify the species of bird (by watching the adult birds at the nest), before you even consider interfering with the nest!  You must determine whether or not the nest removal would be legal according to local wildlife laws.  Native birds are protected species, so tampering with a nest could lead to hefty fines or other penalties.

Although often considered a nuisance species and an agricultural pest, the House Sparrow has proven well-suited for studies of general biological problems such as evolutionary mechanisms, temperature metabolism, and pest control.
Although often considered a nuisance species and an agricultural pest, the House Sparrow has proven well-suited for biological problems such as pest control.

Nests You Shouldn’t Remove

Somenestsshould not be removed regardless of the circumstances, unless wildlifeauthoritiesare consulted, or there are no other options to keep the nesting birds safe. These nests include:
  • Endangered birds that are unlikely to build a new nest if disturbed
  • Raptors or other large birds that will reuse the same nest for many years
  • Natural cavities that would be destroyed in order to remove the nest
  • Any nest in early summer that may be reused for additional broods
  • Learn more about rules regarding Relocating Nesting Birds

 

Bird Nest Facts:

  • Birds usually lay one egg a day.
  • They don’t begin incubating their eggs until all the eggs have been laid.
  • Clutch sizes vary from 2 to 8 eggs for most common backyard birds.
  • Once the last egg has been laid, incubation takes about two weeks.
  • The eggs will usually hatch about the same time.
  • After hatching, it will take another two weeks before the nestlings are ready to leave the nest.
  • To be on the safe side, and to allow for variety in species, allow six weeks before the nest is ready to be moved.
  • Learn more about incubation and fledging time for common bird species in North America.
  • Common questions about Baby Birds

 


What About Touching The Babies?!?

You’re probably familiar with the “rule” that many of us were taught as children: never touch baby birds, or the mother bird will reject her own offspring.  Unfortunately, it’s still generally believed that the mere scent of a human on a hatchling or fledgling bird will spook the mother bird into abandoning her offspring.  Good thing this misperception is FALSE!  This lore may have been invented for keeping children away from birds, in order to ensure the bird’s safety. Also, the parents of the baby bird may be nearby, and could become protective and aggressive when they see children near their nest; parents could have been protecting their human offspring with this tall tale. In fact, birds have a limited sense of smell and even if the mama bird could smell your scent, this would not interfere with taking care of her offspring.   However, if you disturb the eggs in a nest, the mother and father birds could understand that they are facing a danger, and may abandon the nest completely. So please give nesting birds the space they need!

Please help the birds and ignore those crazy myths!

Mother birds will not reject their babies because they smell human scent on them, nor will they refuse to set on eggs that have been handled by a person. Most birds have a limited sense of smell and cannot detect human scent. (If you handle bird eggs while the mother is away from the nest, mama bird will usually notice upon her return that the eggs were disturbed during her absence, and some species of bird will take this as an indication that a dangerous intruder is present and may temporarily or even permanently abandon their nests as a result. Such behavior is relatively rare, however, and in these situations the mother birds are reacting to visual warnings, not olfactory ones.)

 

Learn the Truth Behind More BIRD MYTHS AND MISCONCEPTIONS!


So what should you do if you find a baby bird out of the nest? These graphics should help you!

baby bird out of nest help


found a baby bird

Learn more about What To Do If You Find A Baby Bird


If you have men who will exclude any of God’s creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men. – St. Francis of Assisi

 


Sources:

http://www.worldbirdsanctuary.org/index.php http://www.allaboutbirds.org/ http://bna.birds.cornell.edu/bna

Why Did The Turtle Cross The Road?

We are facing a turtle survival crisis unprecedented in its severity and risk. Humans are the problem, and must therefore also be the solution. Without concerted conservation action, many of the world’s turtles and tortoises will become extinct within the next few decades. It is now up to us to prevent the loss of these remarkable, unique jewels of evolution. ~ Turtle Conservation Coalition

turtle crossing road
Turtles on the road are on a mission! Help them accomplish their turtle mission!

World Turtle Day is May 23, so I wanted to remind everyone to be conscious of these very special animals that share the roads with us!  Where we live, we are surrounded by natural wetlands. But there are highways and roads that also surround these wetlands. This often means that native turtles do not fare well when they need to cross the busy roads.  I have seen far more than my share of injured and crushed turtles in the three years that we have lived here, and every time I find one, my heart breaks.  Many of these turtles are endangered or threatened species. Yet, most people don’t seem to know this, or don’t even care. This is where we come into play!  Helping one turtle across the road can be the difference between life and death for the animal, and for future generations.  Educating our friends and family is how we can save species.

Turtles and tortoises are among the world’s most endangered vertebrates, with about half their more than 300 species threatened with extinction. Only primates—human beings expected—are at greater risk of being wiped off the planet. 

April through October are the months that you will see many turtles actively crossing roads in the United States.  They do this for many reasons; in the spring, males are looking for females and territory to call their own.  May and June is nesting season.  At this time egg-bearing, female aquatic turtles leave the water to find terrestrial nesting sites, and this often requires crossing a road.  During late summer and fall, hatchling turtles are digging up from nests, looking for water.  Then later in the year males and females are heading to safe places for winter hibernation. Other times they will migrate to find a more suitable spot to live.

turtle road
Be a conscious driver and slow down for turtles such as this common snapping turtle!

 

The worst threat to snapping turtles is vehicle traffic. Each year many females get killed in their search for nesting sites. Often vehicles will not stop or even deliberately hit turtles because snapping turtles are disliked by many people. Nests on road sides and in gravel pits are often destroyed by vehicles and road grading. Hatchlings on their way back to the water are frequently run over. ~Tortoise Trust 

 

Our modern roads cut off generations old nesting grounds.
Our modern roads cut off generations old nesting grounds.

Although pre-dating dinosaurs by several million years, turtles everywhere are fast disappearing today. The “hide in my shell and wait it out” strategy that has enabled turtles to weather the geologic changes leading to the extinction of countless other species, however, has proven of little use in surviving the peril posed by fast moving trucks and cars. ~Dept. of Natural Resources

You can literally save a life – and even an entire species – by taking a few minutes out of our day to help them safely cross the road!

turtle crossing

How to help turtles safely across the road:

  • Safety First!  Busy roads and highways are dangerous for humans and animals.  Turn on your hazard lights and carefully pull off to the side of the road.  Make sure other drivers see you, before stepping onto the road.
  • Determine if the turtle is injured.  If he or she is injured, call your veterinarian to see if they will take it.  They may refer you to another vet that does accept injured wildlife.
  • Injured turtles:  If you see a turtle on the road that has been hit, PLEASE STOP to help it! He/she may not be dead!  Reptiles, especially turtles, have an extraordinary capacity to remain alive, even with severely injured.  They can do this because of their slow their metabolic rate.   The benefit of a low resting metabolism is that it requires far less fuel to sustain bodily functions.  This enables them to survive for long periods of time, even when injured!  Turtles can often survive, even if their shell is crushed, if they are given medical treatment in time. I have saved countless turtles who had been hit on the road by getting them to a vet in time.  Don’t let him/her just lay there suffering and baking in the sun!  Take them to a veterinary clinic near you.  Call the vet to let them know you are coming.  If the veterinarian does not have the ability to help you, they will send you to a veterinarian who specializes in reptiles and exotics, or wildlife specialist.  More about What to do if you find an injured turtle.   Check out some pictures of an injured turtle being repaired! 
  • When picking up a small to medium turtle, grasp it firmly and confidently on both sides of its shell between the front and rear legs (along its side).  Turtles have long legs and claws, so they might be able to kick at you, but don’t freak out.   Most will choose to stay safely tucked in their shell, during the brief time that you are moving them.
  • Keep the turtle low to the ground when moving them. Even small turtles have surprising strength.  If a turtle pushes free of your grip, you do not want it to fall and injure itself.
  • If it’s a very large turtle, it may be a snapping turtle, or a softshell turtle.  Both species can be large, heavy, and quite feisty.  They have a very wide reach with their neck and powerful jaws, so be careful.  I would not advise picking it up, but you can still help it cross the road by staying nearby – out of its way – while it continues to cross.  Let the passing cars see you and the turtle so they can safely go around you and the turtle. Learn more here about how to help snapping turtles and softshell turtles here. The video below demonstrates how to use your car mat to move one of these turtles safely across the road:

  • NEVER EVER PICK UP ANY TURTLE BY THE TAIL. This can severely injure them.
  • Place the turtle in the direction it was heading.  NEVER TURN THEM AROUND!  The turtle is on a mission and if you turn it around, it will just head back across the road when you are out of sight.
  • Do not move the turtle to a “better spot.”  Many people are tempted to relocate a turtle.   Turtles have a home range and females often return to the same general area to lay their eggs.  When relocated, they will often search for ways back to their “home base”.   Not only do these relocated turtles risk more road crossings, but if they cannot find their way back, will wander far and become lost.
  • Don’t be a Turtle-Napper!  Do not ever remove a turtle from its habitat.  They are not pets.  They belong in the wild.
  • Report turtle sightings to your local Fish and Game’s Reptile and Amphibian Reporting Program.
  • Work with land trusts and town officials to help conserve important natural areas in your community.
  • Recommended Resources:  

—>  You can save a turtle! A project by Kawartha Turtle Trauma Centre

—>  Help a Turtle Across the Road [ Help A Turtle ] by the Minnesota Herpetological Society

—>  Roadways and Turtles: Solutions for Safety_flyer

—> Discover turtles and tortoises in your state!

—>  Turtle & Tortoise Species Specific Sites

—> A Field Guide to Turtles: Eastern and Central North America

 

 

Whatever the reason a turtle is traveling, their destination can take him or her miles away from where they live.  As humans continue to encroach upon their habitats, turtles will be crossing more roads.  Research has shown that aquatic turtle populations across the United States have uncommonly high proportions of males because so many female turtles are being killed on roadways.  Turtles have a long lifespan, take a long time to reach sexual maturity, and have low survivorship when newly hatched.  Because of these attributes, turtle populations cannot compensate for losses due to adult mortality without experiencing long-term consequences.  With turtle populations requiring high levels of adult survivorship, every individual is important to a population’s stability.  This concern is even greater in recent years because many U.S. turtle populations are becoming fragmented, isolated, and progressively smaller.

It’s up to each of us to ensure that turtle species stay abundant, healthy and safe!

Sammy the turtle crossing road

“For if one link in nature’s chain might be lost, another might be lost, until the whole of things will vanish by piecemeal.”– U.S. President Thomas Jefferson

One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.

“Pull a thread here and you’ll find it’s attached to the rest of the world.”
― Nadeem Aslam

One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.

 Plant a tree.  Hug a tree.  Kiss a frog.  Save a toad.

Get your Earth Day groove on!


Today, on Earth Day, I invite you to watch Yann Arthus-Bertrand’s film, “HOME“:


“Humankind has not woven the web of life.  We are but one thread within it.  Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves.  All things are bound together … all things connect.” —Chief Seattle

animal footprints

Paying It Forward, One Canine at a Time

Kiddie Pool for Pets and dogs

Across the United States the high temperatures of summer have forced many people and animals to find creative ways to stay cool from the oppressive heat. Thanks to a local café owner in Virginia, keeping cool is now easier for dogs!

When Megan Brockman, owner of Café Mojo, read the story of a pair of dogs that died from heatstroke during Virginia’s recent hot spell, she decided to make sure that it never happens again!

Megan got creative. She bought out the town’s supply of kiddie pools. As Megan explains, she did this to keep all dogs hydrated and cooled:

“I saw a story about a couple of dogs who died of heat stroke because they were chained up in their owner’s backyard. It was during that hot spell in Virginia when the heat index got up to about 110 [degrees] so I thought, ‘What can I do?’ A friend of mine has a kiddie pool for her dog and I thought, ‘There you go,’”

Megan purchased 11 kiddie pools from the local Dollar Store and put them in front of her restaurant with a sign that read, “If Your Dog Has To Be Outside…Please Take a Pool To Help Keep Them Cool. If the kiddie pools are gone, I’ll replace them as soon as I can. Thanks, Megan.”

Pools Places Outside Megan's Cafe with a Sign to Please Take A Pool to Keep Your Canine Cool!
Pools Placed Outside Megan’s Cafe with a Sign that asks People to Please Take A Pool to Keep Your Canine Cool! Photo credit: Brittany Magill via Reddit

Since she first placed the pools outside her cafe a few weeks ago, 30 pools have been used. Megan is now relying on her family and friends to bring her more kiddie pools when they come to visit her in her small town. They are also helping her to search for more pools in other towns near Urbana, Virginia.

Megan Brockman hopes the attention that her act of kindness has received will inspire others to keep paying it forward. A kiddie pool is a very inexpensive, easy way to keep your dog cool and hydrated in the summer heat. For those that can’t afford one, or don’t understand how dangerous the heat can be for dogs, Megan hopes that others will see her sign and stack of pools and be inspired to do the same.

“If we can spread awareness and have people care more about all the living creatures then that would be amazing,” she said. “People aren’t the only creatures on the planet. Dogs can’t help themselves. People have to do it.”

To start a similar doggie pool giveaway in your own town, visit your local garden supply, ACE Hardware Store, or Dollar Tree store for the inexpensive pools. Then reach out to your friends and neighbors for donations, and be a part of the movement to save dogs’ lives! Together we can make a difference in the lives of so many!

Sources:

http://abcnews.go.com/blogs

http://dogingtonpost.com