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How to Help a Snapping Turtle Cross the Road

by Beck O’Brien

While the Atlantic waters of Cape Cod might be infamous for one species of predator with frightful jaws, for pond-goers it is a run-in with the common snapping turtle that is generally met with shrieks. And while giving snapping turtles their space—whether at the pond, river, or marsh—is generally the rule of thumb, what happens when one tries to cross the road? Is it safe to help?

Photo by Heather Fone

My dad (Kevin) ran into this situation several years ago while exploring the dirt/sand road between Great Hollow Beach and Corn Hill in Truro in his Toyota 4Runner. Today, this road is used for walking and biking and has obstructions on either end to discourage vehicles from entering.  At the time, Kevin was able to drive directly onto the path.

More than halfway down the road was an obstruction perched atop the crest in between divots created from years of tires compressing the sand. It was a creature as big as a dinner plate, with a ridged shell, beefy, wrinkly legs, a thick spiky tail, and a large head. For Kevin, turning around was impossible and backing up did not feel like an option. So he got out of the car and tried yelling at the snapping turtle as one might yell at a raccoon in their trash: “Hey! Get, get! Move it along!”

This did nothing to phase the snapping turtle, who was enjoying a nice sun bath. Kevin then decided to pick it up. Grasping the turtle with each hand on either side of its shell, Kevin lifted it a few inches above the ground. Hisss! The turtle stretched out its head, opened its mouth, writhed its limbs, and made a loud cat-like noise. Startled, Kevin dropped the turtle and swore.

Two bicyclists came by and offered no assistance. Kevin found a stick and pushed the turtle’s shell from behind. Again, the turtle squirmed all its limbs, stuck out its head and hissed. At this point, Kevin felt trapped. If the turtle wouldn’t move, how was he going to get down the road?

A common snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina) rests in the middle of a road. The snapper is commonly seen crossing roadways near bodies of water that the turtles inhabit during the nesting season as the females look for a place to lay eggs.

“It’s just me and you!” He told the turtle. He proceeded to prod it with the stick. It was still agitated but began to slowly climb over the

crest it was sitting on towards the other side of the path. Kevin got the turtle to the point where he could swerve the car a bit to the other side and avoid hitting it.

Using a blunt object to prod the snapping turtle—like the stick Kevin used—is a safe way to encourage it across the road, according to the Turtle Rescue League. Never try to grab a turtle by the tail as that can damage it’s spine.

Worried about getting your finger bitten off? There’s a good chance that won’t happen on Cape Cod. The common snapping turtle’s relative, the alligator snapping turtle, is the one capable of such a feat. It is found in the southeastern region of the U.S. You are, however, still at risk of being bitten on the Cape, especially since the common snapping turtle can extend its neck as long as its body—up to 19 inches.

Caution is key. And if the turtle is in significant danger or injured and cannot be moved, you can always call the Friends of Cape Wildlife hotline: 508-375-3700.

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Ring-Necked Pheasant

Scientific Name: Phasianus colchicus

AKA: Common Pheasant

Related species: Gray Partridge, Guinea fowl and Indian Pheasant  

Native: China and East Asia

Current status:  Firmly established with widespread breeding from free-living, semi-domestic or feral populations.

Habitats: Within agricultural areas, forests, grasslands, suburban gardens, arboreta, and large grass-covered common areas.

Food habits: Omnivorous and opportunistic. Will feed on seeds, grain, berries, tender young shoots of crops, flowers and flower buds, fruits, snails, insects, lizards, and frogs. Does also eat termites!

Predators and hazards: Raccoons, foxes, coyotes, dogs and cars.

Roost and nest sites: Nests are constructed on the ground under thick cover. Roosting sites tend to be in larger trees – pines may be favored.

Clutch size and incubation period: typically 10-12, and incubated about 23-24 days.

Condition at hatch: Precocial, covered in downy feathers, able to forage and eat on their own and capable of leaving the nest two hours after hatching. They do, however, require the hen to protect and keep them warm and safe.

Dependency period: May stay with mother for nine months.

Range: They tend to roam in spring and summer until they have found a suitable home range. Then, they may remain resident in that area. Males will defend a territory in the breeding season. Single males may roam all year long.

Human interactions with this species can be both positive and negative. Some enjoy these spectacular birds while others may find their presence to be a nuisance. The following section presents issues that might arise and the humane responses that effectively resolve issues when they do. The most important element in preventing conflicts with pheasant, as it is for every species of wildlife, is: Don’t feed them! This is the first step in reducing the chance they will establish a residence. However, there is no guarantee that your neighbors will follow this recommendation and, regardless of any human-provided food, the pheasant may find a suitable roosting site locally. Pheasant tend to remain in a localized area and can form a strong attachment to a roosting or feeding site; steps to reduce the attractiveness and suitability of the areas are outlined below.

Humane hazing techniques:

  1. A motion-sensitive water sprinkler system set to spray the area if any motion is detected
  2. Loud noises: air horns, whistles, banging pots and pans together
  3. Advancing on the birds waving a white towel to help make you look big and scary
  4. Walking outside with your dog on a leash and allowing your pet to bark at them
  5. Using your leaf blower to make noise and odd wind movements      
  6. Turning you garden hose on the birds to annoy and encourage them to move

You have found a pheasant chick:  If they are lost or the female is dead, they need to be caught and may need to be brought into care. A lost pheasant chick or chicks will call in high-pitched peeps, and most obviously, be alone.  Pheasant with broods may adopt chicks of other broods; however, you will need to supervise and intervene if this process is not successful. Begin this process by distracting the pheasant with food such as bird seed or cat kibble. Release the orphan once she is eating, then observe her behavior over the next several hours to ensure she accepts the new kid in her brood.

They are roosting in your trees or on the roof:  They may be moved along by using the humane hazing strategies listed above. You can also try using the noise-maker approach. These methods take A LOT of repetition, because often times once they are scared off, they come back 10 minutes later. Don’t be discouraged after one day; if done consistently, you should see fewer and fewer pheasant as time goes on.

They are pecking at your car/windows: During the breeding season, male pheasant see any intruding males as competition. The reflection on your car or windows is perceived as a strange male in their territory. This male must be evicted, hence the attacks on these shiny reflective surfaces.  You can reduce the issues by covering your car. Or for windows, set the sprinkler to go off if the peacock approaches the area. You can also try spraying him with your garden hose.  If he is very persistent, you could also try covering the windows, or even spray them with a mixture of water and dish detergent to reduce the reflection.

Pheasants and Peafowl are so noisy: The main periods of calling are dawn and dusk while in the roosting areas; however, their calls may be heard all day. Reducing foraging opportunities and hazing as noted above will help keep them out of your immediate area. Using a motion-sensitive water sprinkler system at the roost sites may encourage them to move to a safer area. Just keep in mind these sounds are made for a number of reasons. For instance, calling in the morning and evening helps keep the family together, they are a “Goodnight John-Boy, goodnight Dad” type of thing. During the day, males call to advertise their presence and availability – essentially, they are looking for love!

I can’t stand the feces in my pool/porch/garden: If you need to remove the mess, try using gardening gloves or other protection to pick up and dispose of feces, or simply hose it away. White vinegar will help remove any stuck-on feces, and dissolve any white urates.  Then, use the above hazing suggestions to reduce the number of pheasant in the area.

A humane (and legal) note:  Pheasant and Peafowl cannot be subjected to any action deemed cruel. They may not be wounded or have any pain inflicted on them.  That means you cannot shoot then, injure them or in any way use inhumane methods to remove them.

If you need further assistance,

call Friends of Cape Wildlife at 508-375-3700 BEFORE you act!

When Gulls Turn your Roof into a Nursery

By Peggy DiMauro

Herring gulls and other birds such as rock doves in urban areas frequently nest on flat roofs. They breed once a year from April to June.  Nest building begins generally in early May, and urban birds will often use the same nest year after year.

The easiest way to discourage nesting on your roof would be to check the rooftop early in May and destroy any nesting materials before eggs are laid and/or babies hatched.  Gulls are persistent and if they have been nesting there before, it may take a time or two of disturbing the site to discourage them from returning.

Other options:

1) Stainless Steel Bird Spikes can be purchased from Amazon.com. – Price depends on manufacturer and style.

2)  Bird Spider 360 Spinning Bird Deterrent can be purchased from Home Depot.

3)   Bird Barrier Model #DD-4000, designed specifically for use on gulls, pigeons, and other large birds. Manufactured by Grainger (www.grainger.com)

4)  Decoys and scary masks. Gulls don’t like bright, shiny tape, shiny objects, owl faces, wooden owls, decoy coyotes, hawk statues, etc.; however, these probably will be only temporary deterrents.

More options can be found on the National Geographic website, www.nationalgeographic.com. Topic Title: “Gulls be Gone -10 ways to Get Rid of Pesky Birds”.  Author: Jennifer Holland.

 

Bat Facts

Bats can find their food in total darkness. They locate insects through echolocation, emitting inaudible high pitched sounds and listening to echoes. Bats also have excellent vision, is there’s no such thing as “blind as a bat”

Most bats have only one pup a year, making them extremely vulnerable to extinction. Bat mothers can find their babies among thousands or millions of other bats by their unique voices and scents.

Bat droppings, called guano, are one of the richest fertilizers, although inhalation of it’s dust is dangerous so use caution. Bat guano was once a big business. In fact, guano was Texas’s largest mineral export before oil

A single bat can catch 1,000 mosquitoes in an hour, and many garden pests avoid areas where they hear bats echolocating. Research suggests that bats save American farmers more than $22 billion in pest control each year.

Bats are vital pollinators and seed dispersers. They ensure the survival of hundreds of species of economically and ecologically important plants, including sources of fruits, nuts, medicines, timber, fibers and dyes. Oh and agave! If it wasn’t for bats, we wouldn’t have tequila.

Bats are the only mammals able to fly and are quite talented at aerial acrobatics. Their wings are thin, giving them what is called, in flight terms “airfoil.” The power bats have to push forward is called “propulsion.”

Some bats can survive in freezing temperatures and even fly in the middle of blizzards. During hibernation, their breathing slows down until it’s imperceptible and their heart rate drops to just 25 beats per minute, compared to roughly 400 beats per minute when they are awake.

Rabies transmission from bats to humans is rare, just 1-2 cases per years in the U.S and Canada combined. Just always remember, bats aren’t pets and you should never handle them. Media stories grossly exaggerating risks of disease from bats are promoted by those who profit from public fear.

Artwork by John Small 

Supporting our Bat Population by Dr. Sadie Hutchings

By forming a town wide initiative in your town to install bat houses, we are helping support a local species that is not only feeds on mosquitoes and other night insects, but we are helping support a major pollinator and seed distributor. 

While bats alone are not the sole solution to our mosquito misery, they are part of a solution that helps reduce our environment and our own exposure to chemicals to prevent insect bites and the diseases they carry with them. Pregnant bats can eat up to their body weight, some species eating 500-1000 mosquitoes an hour!
Providing a bat friendly environment will help support an important native species

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Time to nurture nature’s newbies

By Katy Ward
Posted May 10, 2018 at 7:00 AM – courtesy of the Provincetown Banner

PROVINCETOWN — It’s baby-boom time for wildlife on the Cape and people need to understand how to coexist with compassion.

That’s why Friends of Cape Wildlife will present “Why Wildlife Matters,” with Kathy Zagzebski, of the National Marine Life Center in Bourne, and Stephanie Ellis, of Wild Care in Eastham, on Wednesday, May 23 at Napi’s Restaurant in Provincetown.

“It is our responsibility to rectify our human impact,” said Ellis, executive director of Wild Care, which cares for sick and injured small wildlife. “There’s not really any such thing as nature taking its course. It’s trying to take its course, but we are in the way.”
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Why Wildlife Matters

Friends of Cape Wildlife & Napi’s Restaurant Present

WHY WILDLIFE MATTERS

With Kathy Zagzebski & Stephanie Ellis

Wednesday May 23rd at 7pm
7 Freeman St.
Provincetown
FREE
(Donations gratefully accepted)

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Incubator babies

Incubators for Wildlife Babies

In the aftermath of a very successful fundraising campaign, Friends of Cape Wildlife delivered a Brinsea incubator to Jennifer Taylor, Animal Care Coordinator, and Stephanie Ellis, Executive Director, at Wild Care in Orleans this spring 2018. The staff and volunteers were excited to receive the new unit.  Jennifer was especially happy about the design of the incubator, saying that due to the height they could create double decker housing, adding a second shelf to accommodate twice as many animals during the heavy baby season.

A second incubator was delivered to rehabber Mary Morelli who wrote “I am one of the lucky ones to receive a new incubator. It is sooooo nice. The old unit I had didn’t work well, and I couldn’t trust it to leave it for any length of time.  The new one is so easy, and I don’t have to worry about the little darlings roasting or freezing. The litter of five squirrels are comfortable now with more room.”
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Coyote Killing Contests on Cape Cod

Like many of your Cape neighbors, you may have been outraged and dismayed when the Powderhorn Outfitters Gun Shop in Hyannis sponsored a several months’ long coyote killing contest in 2017 and 2018.

Friends of Cape Wildlife firmly believes that killing contests are unjustified, ecologically damaging, unsporting and cruel. Our members support a ban on killing contests. We advocate for greatly shortened seasons; a bag limit of one per hunter; prohibiting baiting, night hunting, and use of electronic calls; and establishing wildlife refuges within local, state and federal parks and forests.
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2017 Recap and looking ahead for 2018

Friends of Cape Wildlife is delighted to be celebrating our first birthday! We had an extremely successful year due to compassionate and visionary people like you. The groundswell of public support has inspired us to launch the next steps: expanding our support to wildlife rehabilitators, education to the public and opening our organization to membership.

In 2017, with our initial goal to keep Cape Wildlife Center from closing its doors, FWC provided over $12,000 of direct operational necessities and our fundraising activities raised an additional $65,000 for the center. These contributions were instrumental in the successful operation of the center in 2017.
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