Wild Animals and Children
Rattlesnakes Do Not Make Good Pets!
For awhile now I have considered writing an article about how to care for the critters your kids find in the backyard. What can I say? My kids are like I was and every living creature they encounter is to them a potential pet.
I adore that my children love animals. As a child I attempted to make pets out of several things: mice, snakes, fish, frogs and even a bat! Not to mention the many insects I collected and attempted to keep as my own personal pets.
Caring For Any Animal Takes Knowledge
I was a Girl Scout growing up and each year we went on an overnight trip to COSI, (the Center of Science and Industry) in Columbus Ohio. It was always an awesome trip but the best part was, they taught us all how to care for a different animal each year and gave one to us to take home. One year it was a caterpillar that turned into a butterfly. Another year it was a tadpole that turned into a frog. My favorite was the hermit crab!
When I was in my late teens, my sister and I volunteered at an animal shelter. This was not your typical animal shelter. This animal shelter took in creatures that people thought would make good pets but soon learned they could not properly care for the animals. Typically these were exotic animals, and in Cleveland, Ohio where I am from, most animals are exotic to us!
It was there that I learned how to care for many different types of species. The work was exciting however, it was extremely sad to see how these animals suffered because they were just never meant to be caged.
We tried to create a natural environment for as many of them as possible. In many cases the damage had unfortunately already been done.
Lucy, My Eastern Fence LizardClick thumbnail to view full-size
I Loved Lucy
One of my favorite found pets actually found me a few years ago. She was an Eastern Fence Lizard that I named Lucy. When I moved from Ohio to Virginia, there was a whole new world of wildlife waiting for me. That and bugs! I started to see things that I normally did not see growing up in Cleveland. Loads of turtles everywhere and lizards were definitely interesting to me. My brother got a box turtle as a pet when he was very young, probably around 6 years old. He named it Mama Josie. This was back when box turtles as pets were legal and they were sold at the corner pet store. He still has this pet turtle 34 years later!
So I was especially excited to see the turtles all over the place since I grew up with one. I knew they were not the most entertaining pets however, so I managed to resist temptation at keeping any of the ones I found.
The lizards were cool too, but I never really thought about trying to catch and keep one. That is not until a few years ago. I was at work one morning and I walked outside and saw the cutest little lizard sitting in the parking lot. I hoped it would let me get close enough to take a picture. Before I knew it, the lizard had jumped on my arm and crawled up onto my shoulder. It spent the rest of the day hanging out with me. I couldn't resist bringing her home. But first we went to the pet store where I talked to the workers and bought everything I needed to take care of her. She lived with me for the next two years and was a fantastic friend. Most likely she had a pet that was lost or abandoned.
Let The Turtle Go
We do find a load of turtles here in Virginia. I have tried hard to explain to my kids that it is not right to keep a wild turtle as a pet. We did end up adopting a wild box turtle for a short time. It was hurt by a lawnmower so we kept it for awhile to protect it while it healed. This one was named Angry Bob, because he was pretty mean and wanted nothing to do with humans. I can't blame him, if one tried to run me down with a lawnmower I would feel the same way. A short time after we found Bob, my daughter found a female box turtle in a sunflower patch. She snatched it up and named it Sunflower and decided it would be Bobs girlfriend and make him happy. She made him very happy. So happy that I finally had to let them both return to the wild because it was easier to do that than explain to my two very young children why they liked to give each other piggyback rides all the time! The turtles were cute, but in the end it was more important that they were set free than doomed to live the next thirty years being ignored in a cage.
Snails Are Actually Super Cute
Last year my daughter found a snail in the garden that she was determined to keep as a pet. I researched caring for a snail to see if it was even possible for her to keep it, it was and she still had it in an aquarium in her room. So, that wasn't so bad, but the 8 caterpillars she wanted to put in the cage with it stressed me out a bit. Then again, I am the mom who found a baby crab in the yard and threw it in my aquarium and kept it for a year before it escaped and got found by the dog! I have no room to judge!
The Story of Tiny Wing Featherbottom
As much as the kids and I love animals, I finally had a complete change of heart the other night, which caused me to write a blog completely different from the original one I had in mind. Last week, I was walking my dog in the front yard. We were walking underneath a tree when I heard branches rustling above us. I already knew there was a birds next up there with 3 babies inside so I figured we startled the mom. We started to walk away from the tree when suddenly something fell from one of the branches to the ground next to me. I turned on my phone flashlight and saw this little birdie laying on the ground. I then shined it up at the nest and saw a big snake inside the nest.
The snake moved away from the nest but then made it's way towards the ground. That is when I saw the big bulges already in inside it. I figured it had at least eaten the other two babies so I tried my best to protect the one that had fallen.
Of course I then started doing my research on what to do. I couldn't see into the nest because it was too high, but I didn't hear anything or notice movement. Usually I can hear the other babies or see their beaks poking up. We sat and waited about 30 minutes to see if the mom would return and find the baby on the ground (because that is what the internet told me to do.)
When that didn't happen, We got some gloves on and lifted the baby back into the nest. It wouldn't go inside. It just sat on the edge shaking. After an hour went by, we checked on it again. It was still sitting on the edge, shaking. I knew I wouldn't be able to sleep because I was so worried about the poor thing. So again, after asking the internet what to do, we made a nest inside a little box and got the gloves back on and retrieved the bird and put it inside. It seemed a bit scared and looked in rough shape. We went and found a worm to see if the bird would eat it. It was not interested in the worm. I did put a little water dish in the box and we went to bed. At that point I looked up what I should do next, pretty sure I would have to call some sort of animal services in the morning. That is when I read that I should definitely not put water in the box.
So, I went back to take the water dish out and the bird had fallen asleep. When I woke up in the morning I checked on the bird and it was sleeping peacefully. I woke up my daughter and explained what had happened and asked if she wanted to help me hunt for worms. She was super excited to do so.
We found a little baby worm and I brought it inside to try feed it to the bird. It would not take it from me but screamed like it was starving. Then my 7 year old son woke up and we showed him the bird. He immediately began thinking of names for it. That is how it got the name Tinywing Featherbottom (or Emma for short.)
The kids were super excited thinking we just got a new pet! I explained to the kids that I don't know if it will survive, but I do know that it's chances of survival are not good with us. I told them that wild birds need to be in the wild where they can hunt for food and fly, not locked in a cage. And that caged birds usually end up dying from depression. The kids went out and found some more worms and I tried to set the box up in a place where it would be safe during the day.
I was nervous about leaving the bird in my house all day as I work very long hours, but as I was walking to my car, I glanced up at the nest as I passed by and noticed the mom bird sitting in it looking at me! I stopped, excited to see that at least she has survived. She then flew off and guess what I saw next? One of the babies poke its head up! This was good!
I told the kids I was going to put the bird back in the nest. They cried and I had to explain again that it needed its mommy to take care of it and it would probably die if it stayed with us. Then I told them that sometimes baby birds come back to their nests they were born in so maybe if it grows and gets healthy and flys away it will be back one day to have its own babies. That made them a little happier.
I went back into the house and got gloves on and picked up the baby bird. It sat peacefully on my hand. I think it was finally starting to trust me. I walked to the tree and lifted my arm up. As soon as the bird saw it's sibling in the nest, it jumped into it. A minute later the mom bird flew back to the nest and according to my daughter, they were so happy they all hugged. So the birds were happy and the kids were happy that the birds were happy and I was happy I didn't have a new pet to take care of!
Along with my Girl Scout Troop, I have spoken to zookeepers and park rangers who have tried to explain why it is important to respect wild animals and not handle them or cause harm to their habitats. That is something I believe my children are finally old enough to learn.
Animal lovers like me and my children will find it difficult however, because we do care about the animals it more important that they survive in the wild instead of living a caged life inside our home. I let my children build some birdhouses and hang them in the yard and we are going to get some stuff to keep the snakes away from them. This way the kids can enjoy the birds in the yard rather than in the house. Hopefully my kids will realize how much more beautiful nature is when the animals are free.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2019 Cristina Cakes