Animal Planet: Oak Hill edition

July 5, 2012   // 1 Comment

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Motorists encountered these two fawns on Escarpment Blvd.

By Tony Tucci

The fawns were a rusty brown color with white spots. They were in the median strip on Escarpment Boulevard near Mills Elementary School when Debby McCray saw them as she was driving her son to Bowie High School.

On the way back, she saw that one of them had made it to the safety of the wooded area behind Mills, but the other was still in the median strip. She stopped her car and approached the fawn, which took a few tentative steps toward her.

“I thought it was going to come into my arms,” McCray said. She gently shooed it across the street, holding up traffic with her arm as she went. McCray said it’s possible the fawns were orphans, since some people had seen a dead deer in the area the week before.

Encounters with wildlife are on the rise this time of year, and it’s not just cute little fawns. Birds are falling out of their nests, foxes are building dens under sheds, raccoons are raiding bird feeders, rattlesnakes are on the move, and coyotes are making off with family pets. Take it from Mike Wallace, customer service representative for Texas Parks and Wildlife. He gets a lot of calls from people looking for help.

Wallace said that normally, the best thing people can do when they see a fawn is to leave it alone. “Typically when people see a fawn and its mother is not there nursing it, they think it’s abandoned,” said Wallace. Actually, the mother leaves the fawn during the day, letting it depend on its odorless, camouflaged coat for protection The doe then returns at night to feed it and care for it

Of course, if the fawn needs to be rescued, as in the case of the fawns on Escarpment, it should be moved to a safe place where the mother can find it. The mother will lick away any human scent.

“We get a lot of calls about baby birds falling out of nests, but some of them didn’t fall. They’ve fledged, and the mother is roosting nearby,” said Wallace.  “If a baby bird has all down and no feathers, then maybe you should put it back in its nest. But if it has feathers, it’s best that you leave it alone.”

Wallace said foxes are more common than people think, and he’s had calls where a mother fox had dug its den under a shed or porch. A good deterrent for unwelcome visitors is mothballs — they can’t stand the smell.

Snakes also are moving around in early summer, Wallace said. Most of them are harmless, but Texas has four poisonous types — rattlesnakes, copperheads, cottonmouth and coral. Homeowners should keep their property cleared of debris or rocks that will make a good habitat for snakes.

Wallace said snakes will try to avoid you, but “if you step on one, or try to pick it up, it will bite.”

He also gets calls about coyotes, and occasionally someone reports sighting a mountain lion. “A lot of the time it’s not a lion but a bobcat or feral cat,” he said.

Residents should not feed wildlife, Wallace said. They get dependent on humans, instead of developing their ability to forage for natural food.

The Shady Hollow Neighborhood Association has received so many calls about wildlife sightings that it sent a notice to its members to take precautions.

“We’ve had several calls about coyote sightings; last night a resident found a fox on his back patio, and late May to early June is when baby deer are being born.  Most of these sightings have been in the early evening (dusk) hours,” the notice said.

“This is just a reminder to be aware of your surroundings and you might want to keep an extra eye out for your pets,” the report said. It warned residents not to approach any wild animal. “Wild animals can be very unpredictable and carry a variety of diseases and parasites.  It’s best to just give them their space and they hopefully will do the same.”

Rattlesnakes have been particularly troublesome in Shady Hollow, which contains or abuts a lot of green space.

“Take extra caution on walking trails, the parks and in your yards,” the association said.

Deputy Constable Ken Rush, who patrols the Shady Hollow neighborhood, said he has seen so many animals lately he feels like he’s watching the Discovery Channel. “I was writing a ticket one night on Brodie Lane and six armadillos came scurrying between the two cars,” he said.

Officer Rush said he has received a lot of calls from residents of the Estates of Shady Hollow who have killed rattlesnakes. The area is near green space set aside for water protection.

Coyotes and foxes are a common sighting, he said. “I was parked at the end of Green Emerald Dr. one night when I saw a coyote with a fawn in its mouth crossing the street.”

Rick Perkins said it’s wildlife as usual in his Granada Hills neighborhood. “I had four fawns in my yard the other day.” He said most residents are used to the wildlife, but the association does send out a message for newer homeowners informing them not to touch the fawns and reminding them to drive slowly.

Anyone who has questions about wildlife can call Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Wildlife Division at (512) 389-4505.


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1 COMMENT

  1. By Bill Scheick, July 8, 2012

    From April through early June this year, the neighborhoods of Convict Hill, Poncha, Kenosha and Wolfcreek Pass were roamed by a pair of foxes. The foxes, seen by residents at all hours of the day, seemed fairly comfortable being out in the open with us, though they also made use of the seclusion of the plant-thick windbreak of my front yard.
    Unfortunately, such patches of preserved wildscape do not compensate for the impact of urbanization overtaking former natural habitats. The life-patterns of animals (or native plants, incidentally) cannot be sustained so simply. Equally true, wildlife making a go of it in towns and cities meet many challenges, including traffic and numerous human-related toxins.
    Even so, challenging as they can be to wildlife, urban and suburban environments have become alternative ecosystems where even roads, sidewalks and lawns are fostering adaptive behavior in animals. That adjustment is what we are seeing in the Oak Hill area and it is something to be kept in mind especially regarding outdoor cats.
    Anyone interested in the latest findings about the impact of urbanization on wildlife, including their adaptive strategies, might check out Stephen DeStefano’s Coyote at the Kitchen Door: Living with Wildlife in Suburbia (2010).

    Bill Scheick
    Oak Hill

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