Please leave animal parents in peace - their young ones depend on it | ISLAND WILDLIFE

A volunteer at West Sound Wildlife Shelter holds a baby otter that was rescued after its mother was killed. - Photo courtesy of Kol Medina
A volunteer at West Sound Wildlife Shelter holds a baby otter that was rescued after its mother was killed.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of Kol Medina

Last Saturday I made use of our unexpectedly sunny weather by taking my baby boy outside. I figured it was time to let him emerge from the den and begin exploring the world.

After setting him down on a small blanket with a couple of toys in the middle of a patch of long grass,

I sat back in watchful parent mode, ready to beat off any kidnappers that might wander by.

Being the focused and driven child that he is, he set his sights on an important, singular task: ripping up as much grass as his pudgy fingers could manage and sticking it all into his mouth. I guess he does have my genes – my first thought when spring arrives is also to go out and graze on grass. I was so proud of him.

The little munchkin did manage to get one long piece of grass all the way into his drooly yap before I could grab it. I fished around his little mouth with my finger (which he enjoyed chewing on), but couldn’t find the grass. Oh well,

I thought, fiber is good for him. Hopefully mom won’t discover it in his diaper and give me grief about it.

Unfortunately, there are lots of wild animal babies in West Sound Wildlife’s hospital right now who will never have the opportunity to play in the grass with their parents. We have three baby river otters in our care — two males and a female. They’re about 1 month old. The female just opened her eyes for the first time over the weekend.

Their mother was attempting to care for them when she was killed in Bremerton by a waterfront homeowner who was outraged that an otter would sneak under his home. I like to assume that this person didn’t know the otter had babies. And I like to think that this person would have acted differently if he had known. But I’m probably wrong on both counts.

It continues to astonish me how little compassion some people have for other living beings. That mother otter was working day and night to care for her babies. She was not some robotic, thoughtless machine. We see our patients exhibit emotions and feelings regularly so I know that mother otter cared about her babies.

My eyes tear up when I think of that poor mother. She was first trapped and then shot. Imagine how she felt in that trap. She knew her babies were not far away; they were getting cold; they were hungry; and I’m sure they were calling for her. And she could do nothing except wait for a human to eventually show up and violently kill her. Imagine how frantic she must have been to save her babies.

But I digress. My point is this: If you see or hear a wild animal in your yard, in your crawlspace, in your shed, or under your deck, please do not kill it. At this time of year, it is quite possible, if not probable, that it is a mother with babies.

Likewise, please do not board up an opening into a shed or a crawlspace at this time of year. By doing so, you might be sentencing innocent, helpless baby animals to death.

Instead, please call us – 206-855-9057. We will give you advice on how to persuade the mother to remove her own babies.  Isn’t that a better solution for everyone?

The otter babies in our care will never have the experience of being taken outside by their mother, which brings me back to that piece of grass my boy succeeded in stuffing into his mouth.

A few minutes after the grass disappeared into his gummy maw, he started coughing and rubbing his face. Great, I thought, it’s stuck in his throat; I wonder if I can get him to drink some water and wash it down. I took him inside and set him down on the couch. When I came back with a sippy cup, I noticed something strange: a small hint of green just inside his nostril. Indeed, the grass was in his nose!  I gently grabbed it with my fingernails and started pulling. I will never forget watching three inches of snotty grass slowly slide out of his nose. Of course, he wanted me to give it to him so he could try to eat it again.

Kol Medina is executive director of the West Sound Wildlife Shelter.


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