injured bird lying supine

If you’re a nature lover like me, you’ve probably encountered the following paradox.

When the rush of modern life gets overwhelming, when the crush of people, busy and striving, feels oppressive, it’s wonderful to seek out the hush of nature. Traipsing through the woods is cathartic. One feels peaceful and at one with the universe . . . until a minor tragedy plays out.

A sick or injured bird might be lying on a ledge, unable to fly. A young mammal might be fending for itself alone, without a mother. Carrion-eating birds and bugs might be preying on a dead animal. A snake or bear or mountain lion might be lunging for . . . you.

In his book The Weather Detective, Peter Wohlleben notes that “on average, 80 percent of wild animals lose their lives in the first year.”

It’s beautiful out there, but harsh.

Wohlleben offers advice for those seeking to help small animals that look like they’re in trouble. His advice is detailed and specific, but here are some of his basic tips: If it’s a baby bird that hasn’t yet grown feathers, and you see its nest nearby, put it back in the nest. If it’s a baby mammal without a mother, do nothing; the mother is likely nearby or returning soon. Finally, he offers this recommendation:

“If you want to help baby animals, the best way of doing so is to have a natural garden with ecological niches; that is, pockets of wilderness. By avoiding the use of chemicals and leaving some areas uncut or untended, you will give many young animals the best chance of surviving their first year.”

Oh, so I can stop feeling guilty about the big, brambly, weedy chaos of overgrowth at the back of my yard? Three cheers for nature!

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