Early Thursday morning, a sound came blasting through dreams and memory to my sleeping brain. It’s been years—decades even—since I lived in Tornado Alley, where April brings showers, The Wizard of Oz on television, and being hustled into the basement at all hours of the day and night. But when the emergency siren wailed just after midnight, I recognized the sound before waking. My eyes flew open, I leapt up, turned on the local news station, and stepped onto the patio to keep vigil and look for the bruised, greenish-gray sky I associate with twisters.
I have a vivid memory of living in West Texas as a young adult and my first tornado warning there. I heard the alarm and froze. Standing in the middle of my kitchen, I had no idea where one is supposed to go when the house sits on a slab. Turning on the radio, a pre-recorded emergency announcement instructed listeners to head for the bathroom. This didn’t make any sense to me at all, but I scurried obediently down the hall, imagining myself flying through the air in a bathtub like Calvin and Hobbes hurdling through space in their wagon or Slim Pickens riding a nuclear bomb in Dr. Strangelove.
When I ran a wildlife rehabilitation center in Houston, major spring storms always brought a deluge of baby animals. Nests cradling baby birds and squirrels were blown out of branches, and even cavity-nesting species weren’t safe when the storm was strong enough to uproot entire trees. Permitted wildlife rehabilitators are trained to provide the specialized care and nutrition necessary for wildlings to grow up healthy and be returned to the wild, but it’s always best to reunite offspring with their parents… if possible. As a result, rehabilitators have a variety of creative reunion methods and techniques. After a tornado or hurricane churns through a neighborhood, though, the wild adults, if they survived, may be too disoriented to find their babies.
If you come across a wild baby on the ground, and you’re not sure if it needs help or what to do, contact a local wildlife rehabilitator for advice. State and provincial wildlife agencies that require a permit to rehabilitate wildlife legally will usually post a list of individuals on their website. Additionally, readers in North America may find the following links helpful:
You may be offered instructions for how to help bring mother and child back together, or be asked to transport the animal to an individual or a center for care. Just as important, you’ll be told how to protect your own health and safety while being a good Samaritan.
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© 2011 Next-Door Nature— no reprints without written permission from the author. Thanks to the following photographers for using the Creative Commons license: Ryan Keene, Graham Gavaghan, and Carol Vinzant.