Late Summer Orphans

The Canyon ChronicleBy The Canyon Chronicle      August 20, 2021

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Late Summer Orphans
This this young orphaned squirrel kit needs to be fed five times a day from sunrise to sunset.
There is a vehement outcry against squirrels this year that are razing local gardens from fruit trees to home-grown veggies. The California Wildlife Center (CWC), however, is doing what they are meant to do: saving orphaned wildlife, even squirrels, who are among several species that give birth multiple times a year. While most animals are born in the spring in Southern California, we do have a few species that will give birth multiple times a year. Some species that we commonly see are also able to give birth year-round due to our temperate climate. Eastern Fox squirrels like this young orphaned kit, generally give birth twice a year—once around February and again around now. The fall squirrels do not come in the same numbers as the spring squirrels, but they are reliable harbingers of coming autumnal temperatures and shortening days. Squirrels build two nests in the trees, constructed primarily of leaves. That way if one of their nests is destroyed by tree trimmers, wind, or predators, they can move their young to another nest. After windstorms we generally see an increase in the numbers of orphaned squirrels found—they may blow out of their nests and a human finds them before their mother. We generally advise, whenever possible, for the finder to attempt to return the squirrel to their dray (the name for a group of squirrels). While we have a very high success rate with orphan squirrels, we can never replace the care or type of nutrition that a mother can give. At this young age, he needs to be fed five times a day from sunrise to sunset. Virginia opossums will also give birth twice a year. Hummingbirds, Mourning Doves and Band-tailed Pigeons will all give birth year-round. There is a larger surge of young being born in the spring but we do get to see them in smaller numbers throughout the year. This Band-tailed pigeon was brought to us by a CWC volunteer from the West Valley animal shelter in Chatsworth. He’s healthy but needs more time to become fully feathered (you can still see his downy baby feathers in those whisps) and flighted before he can survive on his own. The survival rate for second season animals is likely lower. The mothers have less nutrition to give their young and heat stress can be a detrimental factor. Additionally, there are some late summer diseases that take advantage of immune systems already depressed by heat. West Nile Virus can thwart both late season American Crows and second
This Band-tailed Pigeon flew the coop too early. He needs more time to become fully feathered.
season squirrels as can specific types of parasites such as mites, feather lice, and coccidia.

Every year we also receive late songbirds. As many of these are migratory species, we take special care with them. We put them under even more scrutiny than our other orphans, as they will need to be old enough to be released in time to move with the rest of their species in the great migration of birds that occurs twice a year. We are extra proactive with their health to ensure they have a quick and smooth time with us.

As the earth warms, migratory patterns for all animals are changing. This climate change also affects when animals are born and when they need to move as their food sources may be born, go to seed, or bloom at different times than they have for thousands of years.

Many reptiles and fish use incubation time to determine the sex of their offspring. When the world is even a few degrees warmer, it means that different proportions of sexes are being born than before, which will likely result in an imbalance for future procreation. A surfeit of females or males may mean the end of a species.

Conservation Note: Glue traps, sheets, or boards, are a menace to wildlife. The CWC urges everyone to never use them. Instead, work with a reputable pest control company that does not use glue traps or poisons. A responsible pest control company will focus on natural and humane exclusion and deterrent methods and create a pest management plan that is best for the health of your family, pets, and wildlife. Educating your friends and family about the dangers of inhumane pest control methods is also an easy and important way for everyone to help our wildlife.
The Canyon Chronicle

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