For better or worse, humans and wildlife frequently share the same spaces. Although seeing certain animals in one's yard can be fun and exciting, others are alarming if they're considered dangerous. Additionally, the presence of certain wild animals may be the beginning of a destructive pest situation. The type of animal and the frequency with which it appears often depends on where a person lives, as some creatures are more common in rural areas than in cities. Properly identifying what's taken up residence on one's property can appease a homeowner's curiosity or help them determine how to best resolve the issue if the animal has become annoying or destructive. When faced with a seemingly orphaned or stranded animal, people should not only know how to determine what it is, but they should also learn what to do and not do about it.
Birds are a common presence regardless of where a person lives. They're in the trees, feeding on fruit and nectar from flowers, bathing in water, or, in the case of owls, nesting in structures such as one's barn. Because owls are largely a nocturnal bird, they aren't seen as often as other types of birds. There are several different types of owls, such as barn, screech, and grass owls, that are similar in shape but differ in appearance. One can typically identify an owl based on the color of its eyes and bill, the presence or lack of tufts on its head, its size, and its plumage. Birds in general can be identified to some degree by their size, their coloring, and the sound of their call. Watching and identifying the different types of birds and their habits is a hobby for many.
Where there are birds, chances are good that there are also baby birds. A baby bird that appears to be orphaned is something that most people will want to care for and protect, as their size and general helplessness make them an obvious target for predators. When a person comes across a baby bird that seems abandoned or that appears to have fallen from its nest, they should first determine if it's a nestling or fledgling. A fledgling is a young bird that has some mixture of fuzzy and adult feathers and has the ability to hop about. If it doesn't appear to be injured and there's no immediate threat to its safety, a fledgling should be left alone. A nestling is a bald and tiny baby bird. If uninjured, it should be put back into its nest or into a surrogate nest that has a padded, non-slippery surface. If injured, it should also be placed into a nest, and then a wildlife rehabilitator should be contacted. When handling either a nestling or a fledgling, one should use clean or preferably gloved hands.
Animals both small and large can make their way into a person's backyard. If one lives in a largely rural area or near mountains or the woods, they are more likely to see wild animals such as foxes, coyotes, or even bears and mountain lions. If one of these animals enters a person's yard, people should go indoors before attempting to identify the specific type of animal that they're seeing. Often, a person can identify common wild animals on sight, but physical characteristics can differ when determining the specific species. Deer, for example, may have antlers that grow in a different pattern or the color and shape of their tail or rump may differ. Bears such as grizzly bears and American black bears can be identified by the their color, whether or not they have a hump, the height of their rump, and their size. Grizzly or brown bears are also larger than black bears and have longer claws. If uncertain about the type of animal it is, one can use online resources such as animal guides or apps to compare its likeness. An easy way to do this is to first take a picture of the animal before comparing it to similar animals in the guide.
Occasionally, people come across what they believe is the abandoned offspring of mammals. In general, people should not disturb them, as small mammals will leave their young alone yet hidden for a certain amount of time during the day. Rabbits, for example, stay away from their young during the day so that they aren't noticed by predators. They do, however, leave them carefully hidden. If a person comes across these infant rabbits, leave them: They're exactly where they should be. When it comes to deer, a doe typically hides her young to protect it from predators as well. She may be watching it from a short distance and may only go to her fawn to feed it during the first few weeks of life. For this reason, it is best to leave a fawn that appears to be abandoned alone unless there is an immediate threat.
Animals in general can be identified in several ways, even if they haven't actually been seen. If a person feels that an animal has been in their yard or barn, they should look for tracks or paw prints. The shape of the animal's foot or paw is a common identifying mark. An animal may be identified by both the shape of the pad and the presence or lack of claws. An animal's feces, or scat, is another common identifier. Scat can tell whether an animal is a plant- or meat-eater, its size, and, in some cases, even the type of animal. Reptiles can also be identified by looking at a few key characteristics. Snakes, for example, can be identified by the presence of or lack of sensing pits, the shape of their pupils, and the location of their nostrils. Other characteristics that help identify snakes include the color and pattern of its scales and the shape of its head.