Watch out for the little ones

By Roger Wolfe - Contributing Columnist

It is that time of year again. The hills are alive with the lush green vegetation and berries of all sorts and flavors ripening every day.

It also means that the little ones of all wild critters are starting to venture out of the hiding spots and covering more ground with mama.

As their little legs gain strength and their confidence grows, they will go farther and farther and become more adventurous and playful each day. They are just babies after all and they like to play.

Just like human youngsters, this can oftentimes put them in harm’s way. Try as she may, mom just isn’t always around and even when she is, sometimes trouble just seems to pop up.

We can all help watch out for our furry and feathered youngsters while out on our way in the outdoors. The first thing we can do is to be sure to always look and NOT touch. This is always the best policy when it comes to wild babies.

They are cute and cuddly and often look like they have been abandoned. Don’t fret, they haven’t been abandoned, mom just stepped away for a minute and left junior alone and hiding to keep him safe. Just like our own little ones, they sometimes start to wander when mom isn’t looking.

Even the feathered youngsters are suspect to wander, especially when they are almost stepped on by an unknowing passerby. Stepping into a group of well-hidden and camouflaged turkey poults can be quite an experience.

You can be walking along on a nice quiet mountain trail or through a meadow of tall grass and wildflowers then POOF, bam, swoosh! The landscape erupts into a cacophony of squeaks, chirps, whistles, whirs and feathers.

Miniature birds run everywhere. Sometimes, mom is the first to go and often she makes the most commotion. This is intentional and with good reason. She is trying to draw whatever it is that has disturbed her brood to her so it leaves them alone.

It may look as though she has just up and abandoned her young, but she is doing what she knows to protect them by drawing danger to her. Don’t worry about all those little bundles of feathers left behind.

Once she is sure the coast is clear, she will return and gather her flock with a couple of soft whistles and clucks. The babies know mom will return and when she does they will leave their hiding spots and join her and return to their normal routine.

Nature has an amazing way of protecting the little ones. One thing that nature doesn’t have much protection for is a passing car. That is where we can help out the most.

Wild animals, especially young ones, often get frightened and panic when faced with an approaching vehicle. While mom tries to teach them to run, it is sometimes hard for the little ones to not panic or freeze up when the moment of terror arises.

This is where we can be the hero of the story. In order to help save those young lives on the roadways, all we have to do is slow down and keep a watchful eye out. Way too many lives are lost, furry and otherwise, because we go through life too fast and distracted.

Take a trip down any major highway and you will see little ones who didn’t make it safely to the other side of the road. It is a sad sight no matter how many times you see it and most of them could have been prevented if we just slow down and keep our eyes open.

As you drive, be sure to not only watch the road ahead of you, but be sure to glance along both sides of the road. That split second it takes to see a critter about to dart in the road ahead of you may be all it takes to slow down and safely avoid the tragedy — not to mention what could easily turn out to be a costly repair job. Vehicle repairs are small in comparison to the price the animals pay.

Somehow, Mother Nature has prepared the animals for these losses and the wildlife around us continues to grow and flourish. Every little bit helps, though, and if we can avoid one lost wild baby by taking our time and being vigilant, then it was well worth the effort.

That extra effort might just let us catch a glimpse of babies growing up wild that we would have missed otherwise.

By Roger Wolfe

Contributing Columnist

Roger Wolfe writes about the outdoors for Civitas Media newspapers.

Roger Wolfe writes about the outdoors for Civitas Media newspapers.