I posted this on Facebook today, as I see these things every spring, and I thought I would use this forum as well to try and get the word out to people...
It's that time of year. Spring is when nature is pretty hyperactive, and danger is high for wildlife. Some things to keep in mind while you are out and about:
1) Keep an eye out for turtles crossing the road. Females and males are on the go, seeking out new venues and females looking to dig nests and lay eggs. If you see one crossing the road, please try to stop and help it in the direction it was heading. They commonly get run over and need all the help they can get. Sometimes they can't get over the curbs to get back to safety. Sometimes people forget how tall the turtle shells are, and how low their cars are, and they think they can safely straddle them. They are often wrong.
2) Likewise look for squirrels and such. Remember that squirrels are prey animals, created to avoid birds of prey. Their avoidance technique is zig-zagging. So people think they can just straddle them with their car, not realizing that the squirrel will dart in the opposite direction and run in an unpredictable zig-zag path. When you see a squirrel, slow down and just give it time to realize you are coming and head back to safety. It really isn't that difficult. I do it all the time!
3) People also believe that they can just head down the road at 50 mph, and birds will always get out of the way. Especially this time of year, that may not always be true. Birds are focused on courting rituals and building nests right now. They are distracted. And you may easily see something like I saw the other day, with a bird so distracted with the nesting material he was collecting, he didn't think to get out of the way of cars leaving the intersection at the light, and he was plowed over before he could get out of the way, because the drivers are too impatient to edge forward to warn the bird and get him to move. Often the birds are in the middle of a dispute, chasing one another, and are so focused that they forget the cars.
4) And, in situations like the above, realize that birds are often stunned for awhile after being hit. So they may appear dead, but are actually just in stasis. Like the one I saw get hit last week. He actually laid on his back, feet in the air, for several minutes and appeared dead. Then he flipped over, as cars whizzed inches from him, but was still too stunned to fly off. I grabbed him and given time to recover, he wound up being fine and I could let him go back in the area I'd found him a few hours later. I've picked up stunned birds from the side of the road a few times now.
5) Remember that animals that are hit by cars aren't doomed. They often can recover, if given an extra hand. If you see an injured animal, try to capture it and get it to a wildlife clinic like CROW on Sanibel Island. They have pick-up locations all over Lee County. (I picked up an injured opossum a couple of years ago that I spotted in the road. He had a broken jaw. They monitored him and were able to release him after a week or so.)
6) Speaking of opossum, realize that if you see a opossum hit (or hit one yourself), that they are often females carrying young in their pouch. If possible, check for babies. I once had a maintenance crew find a dying mother opossum and a pouchful of babies covered in fire ants. They took the babies from the dying mother and gave the little pinkies to me. I took them to CROW. Unfortunately that bunch couldn't survive the fire ant venom, but often they can be saved!
7) And, just in general, be patient and thoughtful. If you see an animal in the road, or near the side of the road, SLOW DOWN! Don't expect it will just get away from the road and be fine! If it is in the road, don't keep speeding on, assuming it will just get out of your way!
We are the keepers of the earth and its inhabitants, and let's keep it well!