Spring Fever for Wildlife in the District
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Spring Fever for Wildlife in the District

Every year, as the weather begins to turn warmer, the HRA Field Services team sees a large increase in calls for help from the public, particularly calls regarding wildlife. From an orphaned baby bird falling from the nest, to raccoons trapped in a house, HRA’s trained team of dispatchers is available 24/7 and takes more than 1,600 calls a month. This amounts to a 30-40 percent increase over the call volume seen during winter months. This high call volume persists through the summer and into fall. 

Our dispatch team is the first line of support for animal-related emergencies for DC’s nearly 700,000 residents. Dispatchers are also often able to help educate callers and provide the information necessary to resolve many issues themselves. For more complex cases, HRA’s team of Animal Control Officers is always ready to respond.  

Avoiding Human-Animal Conflicts

The DC area is home to a diverse and abundant wildlife population, from ducks and geese to raccoons, foxes, coyotes, and deer. When wild animals are sick, injured, or trapped in someone’s home, our wildlife specialists get to work. They also provide important community outreach to encourage peaceful coexistence with the wildlife in our neighborhoods.

The human population in the District of Columbia is ever-growing, and the available habitat for local wildlife is slowly turning from woods to homes and businesses. Conflicts arise when a house is now where a nest used to be, leaving wildlife to come into close contact with their new neighbors.

Now that we’re entering that busy time of the year, it’s important to know what situations warrant concern versus what is normal behavior as you begin to see wildlife and their offspring. Many human-animal conflicts can be easily resolved or avoided by following a few simple steps that provide long-term, cost-effective solutions without having to resort to lethal means of removing the animals. Removing an animal from their environment is merely a quick fix that opens up space for other animals. Relocation also risks the possibility of orphaning a den or nest of babies if a mother is removed.

The most effective way at limiting the amount of nuisance wildlife issues in and around your home is to remove what is drawing them to your home in the first place – opportunities for food or shelter.

If you are having issues with wildlife in and around your home, or to report an animal-related emergency, please contact us directly at 202-576-6664. 

Fact vs. Fiction

Another situation you could come across this time of year is finding what appears to be orphaned baby wildlife. It is always concerning to see baby animals without a mother nearby, but it doesn’t always mean there is a problem. For example, it is normal for a mother deer to leave her fawn for the majority of the day to help keep the fawn hidden and safe while she forages for food. If you are lucky enough to come across a fawn curled up in tall grass, even if you have seen it there several days in a row, and it appears to be healthy, there is no reason for concern as the mother is likely nearby. If you do see one that appears sick, covered in flies, wandering around for hours, and crying for its mother—that is a cause for concern and HRA’s Animal Control should be notified.  

Our officers will also be responding to hundreds of calls this spring about baby birds that have fallen from a nest. If you find a baby bird on the ground and it is obvious which nest the bird came from, the bird should be gently placed back into the nest if it can be reached. It is a myth that a bird will abandon a nest and its young if the scent of humans is detected on it. When it’s not possible to return a bird to the nest, HRA’s officers will transport the bird to City Wildlife in hopes that their wildlife rehabilitators will be able to raise it until it can be released into the wild. Taking a picture of the bird on the ground to share with our dispatchers when you call will  help them to determine what the best course of action is for that particular situation. 

Overall, this is an exciting time of year when it comes to enjoying all of the natural beauty our city has to offer. HRA’s Field Services team is here to ensure you can do so safely. As always, if you ever come across a situation regarding the health and safety of an animal or problems you are experiencing with wildlife around your home, never hesitate to call and speak to one of our trained experts. We are always happy to answer any questions you may have, provide you with guidance to address your situation, and if necessary, send an officer to give some direct hands-on assistance.