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28 September 2007
Orphaned, Injured or Displaced Wildlife:
How Can You Help?

JSU Field Schools' Nature Camper, Miss Haley Hulgan, is raising an orphaned white-tailed deer.

“We have a blue heron with a broken wing...I found a white-tailed deer with an injured daughter rescued a baby robin fallen from its nest...there is a large black snake in my garage…I see a baby owl in my back yard…I’m watching a dinosaur crawl through my pepper garden…”

These are all actual phone calls received by Renee Morrison at JSU Field Schools.

“We receive around a dozen phone calls each month…ranging from dedicated concern to escalating panic…about orphaned, injured or displaced wildlife,” she says.

According to Renee Morrison, most folks have no problem living with common urban wildlife. Creatures like squirrels, chipmunks and pigeons are taken for granted as part of the city scene. But as more people move into subdivisions that have been built in rural areas, they are surprised to see a new diversity of wild neighbors: a fox in their rose garden, a snake on their driveway, or a deer drinking out of their Koi pond. Most folks find this delightful, but every now and then it is disconcerting.

"Jane Smith" found this to be true when she and her family moved to White Plains from an urban area of Los Angeles, California.

“We lived in the city all of our lives. The first night in our new home I hear these sounds from the woods near our house. I was so frightened that I began to cry. The next day my neighbor told me it was only coyotes. Only coyotes! Aren’t they like wolves? I was terrified! I called JSU Field School and was comforted when I learned that coyotes rarely attack humans. Mrs. Morrison explained that while more than three million people are bitten by dogs each year, less than a handful of people have ever been attacked by coyotes. She also explained how beneficial coyotes are to pest control. This made me feel much better about the creature. If they stay away from me, I will stay away from them. We respect one another,” explains Ms. Smith.

The field school offers programs on creating landscapes and yards that are wildlife friendly. They also try to teach the “do’s and do not’s” of wildlife interaction.

“Water sources, especially in drought, are wonderful ways to attract wild creatures to your yard. Birdfeeders and butterfly gardens are excellent for aiding our flighted creatures. However, do not attempt to attract or feed predators such as bears, foxes, coyotes or raccoons. Wild animals that become adapted to eating from humans can become a problem. Most wild animal attacks are the result of creatures that become too comfortable with humans. These are not pets and you cannot expect them to react like a domestic animal if you come too close to them,” says Morrison.

She learned this fact at a young age when her uncle, Harry Walker, was fatally attacked by a grizzly bear while camping in Yellowstone National Park in 1972.

“Many people ask me if I hate bears because of this family tragedy. My answer is simply 'no.' The grizzly who attacked my uncle was also a victim. She had grown accustomed to eating garbage, picnic foods, and other snacks offered by visitors at the park. Drs. Frank and John Craighead, grizzly specialists studying the situation, warned the park that this was becoming dangerous for the public. The park attempted to create a safer environment for visitors by creating a non-feeding policy and the park replaced traditional garbage cans with bear-proof containers. Some of the grizzlies that were used to eating with and from people became dangerous and began to attack vehicles, campsites and even visitors. My uncle was in the wrong place at the wrong time. The bear that attacked him had been removed and relocated three times, but she kept returning to the park in search of easy food. He and the bear both paid the ultimate price. It is very important for the public to be educated about wild animals. Education will make a safer environment for both man and beast,” says Morrison.

When callers need information about orphaned, injured, or displaced wildlife, they are given the contact information for the Alabama Wildlife Center near Birmingham. According to their website, the AWC is the oldest and largest wildlife rehabilitation center, providing care annually for over 2,500 native birds, mammals, and reptiles of over 100 species, in order to return them to the wild. Located in the heart of Oak Mountain State Park, the Center’s educational mission is to arouse awareness and concern for Alabama’s native wildlife and the problems they face because of the rapid spread of human activity.

Their website gives immediate useful information about caring for orphaned creatures and laws regarding wildlife. The AWC also offers classes on how to become a trained volunteer who helps rescue or relocate wildlife. For more information, call the AWC at 205-663-7930. If you have a wildlife emergency, call the hotline at 205-621-3333.

For more information about JSU Field Schools, visit

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