Frequently Asked Questions - Wildlife
Is it okay to feed deer during the winter?
No. Please do not feed the deer. Feeding deer makes them vulnerable to predation and vehicle collisions, among other things. Fed deer tend to travel more in the winter going between feeding sites and exhaust their fat stores. Unfed deer tend to travel less, stay in natural winter deer yards, and conserve their resources to survive the winter -- the natural survival strategies that have served them for eons. Another concern is that feeding deer can make them more vulnerable to disease. Diseases such as Chronic Wasting Disease could seriously threaten New Hampshire's deer herd, and feeding of deer creates the highest potential to spread the disease quickly if it shows up in the state. For more information on why you should not feed deer, click to download "More Harm Than Good"* (PDF, 956KB). To learn more about making your yard more attractive to wildlife -- naturally -- try downloading UNH Cooperative Extension's document, New Hampshire's Native Trees, Shrubs, and Vines With Wildlife Value*
What can be done to help a lone duck/goose that is freezing into the ice on a pond, lake, etc.?
Healthy animals are capable of leaving a freezing pond when the amount of open water is not sufficient for their needs. Unfortunately, there isn't much that can be done for animals too weak or sick to leave on their own. Since the ice is probably not safe for people to walk on, the best thing to do is to let nature take its course.
What can I do about flying squirrels or other small animals that have taken up winter residence in my attic or other part of the house?
These creatures are looking for a warm, safe place to take up residency for the winter. An overhanging branch or tree limb is an open invitation for these species to get onto your roof and possibly into your home. Trim the overhangs as much as possible to prevent animals from easily getting onto your roof. If an animal gets into your home, you will need to remove it, if not on your own, then by contacting a Wildlife Control Operator to assist with the removal. Once the animal is removed, you need to determine how the animal got in; eaves, cracks in the foundation, an open door, etc. Once you locate the entryway you need to block it off so the animal cannot return. You can also contact USDA Wildlife Services at (603) 223-6832. They can give you information to assist you with the removal of the animals.
When do deer and/or moose shed their antlers? Where are the deeryards in my town, and is it OK to go into a wintering deeryard to look for sheds?
Moose generally shed their antlers in November. Deer generally shed antlers in late December and early January, although some antlers may be retained until late winter. In much of the state, deer may not be "yarded" at all if snow depths are limited. Fish and Game advises people to wait until spring to look for shed antlers. In cases where winter conditions are severe and deer are confined to small areas and/or limited trail systems, disturbance, particularly by motorized vehicles such as snowmobiles or groups of people acting as "search parties," can cause increased stress and energy expenditure, which can adversely affect our deer.
What is the status of the CWD Surveillance testing in N.H.?
New Hampshire's deer population shows no evidence of chronic wasting disease (CWD), based on monitoring data gathered during the hunting seasons and analyzed by a federally certified veterinary diagnostic laboratory. Chronic wasting disease is a fatal neurological disorder known to affect white-tailed deer, mule deer and elk. The World Health Organization has concluded that there is no evidence that people can become infected with CWD. The disease was first identified in 1978, and a nationwide effort is underway to prevent further spread. This effort includes collecting annual samples of deer brain tissue as part of ongoing monitoring and surveillance efforts.Click here to learn more about the CWD monitoring effort in New Hampshire, and specific rules restricting the import of game carcasses into the state.
Is it OK to feed turkeys during the winter? If so, what is the best type of food for them?
The N.H. Fish and Game Department discourages people from purposefully feeding turkeys because doing so enhances the likelihood of disease, predation and human conflicts. Fish and Game does not provide turkey feed or compensate individuals for the cost of turkey feed. The Department does participate in qualifying cost/share projects intended to enhance turkey habitat. Good habitat management practices that result in the production of winter persistent fruits, seeds and grains, can enhance the value of your land to wildlife and eliminate the need to feed. While Fish and Game does not advocate wildlife feeding, we recognize that turkey feeding will, at times, take place with or without our input -- and we also recognize that poor feeding practices may do more harm than good. Therefore, and in response to numerous inquiries from the general public, please refer to "Guidelines for winter feeding of wild turkeys in New Hampshire" -- click here.
What type of animal is eating the bark at the base of my trees?
If the animal is chewing off more than the bark and taking the entire tree down, it is probably a beaver. If it is just eating the bark around the trees, it could be a vole, mouse, porcupine or possibly a rabbit. To prevent further damage to the trees, you can purchase plastic mouse guards that can be wrapped around the base of the trees. You can also purchase 1/4" hardware cloth from a hardware store and wrap a 2' length of it around the trunk. (Hardware cloth is an inexpensive galvanized mesh that these animals cannot chew through).
How often do deer need water? Do they get much water from their daily food?
Water exists in three forms: free (puddles), preformed (in plant and animal tissue) and metabolic (from oxidation of carbohydrates, fat, and protein). Deer drink daily when water is available. They also get substantial water from food (even hardwood browse is 50% water). Finally, they get water as a byproduct of digestion. There is no standard water requirement for deer since their needs vary by sex, age, reproductive status and season. However, during winter, water requirements for deer are reduced and mostly come from food and digestion/catabolism. Lactation increases the water requirement for does, which probably drink to meet their needs.
I think I found an orphaned fawn (or other animal)... what should I do?
Every year well-intentioned, but misguided, people see fawns alone, assume they are abandoned, and take them in to “help” them. Sadly, they are usually removing the fawn from the care of its mother, who was waiting to return to it. Click here to learn more about why you should not pick up young wildlife.
I have a family of fox living in my backyard, what should I do?
If possible, leave them be. Once the young are old enough to be on their own, the fox family will disperse and move on. If you have an outdoor cat, you may want to consider leaving it indoors since fox, as well as fisher and coyote, prey upon small animals (which would include cats) if they have an opportunity. It is not unusual to see fox families out during the day, since the adults need to forage for food day and night in order to feed the entire family. If you see any type of unusual behavior, or the foxes are getting too close for comfort, contact our Wildlife Division for more information.
A bear took down my bird feeders or has been seen in my yard.
Remove bird feeders immediately. Bird feeders should be taken down by April 1 of each year -- and they should not be put up again until December 1 or later. See the Something's Bruin section of our website for information on bear behavior and tips on keeping them out of your yard.
When is it safe to put my bird feeders up?
We suggest that you wait at least until December 1 to put your feeder back up. However, if we have not had several days and nights of cold weather, bears may still be active and looking for food; then you should keep your feeder down until we have had several days of cold weather. In the spring, bird feeders should be put away by April 1.
A baby bird has fallen out of nest or my dog/cat has disturbed a nest and the birds dispersed.
Eventually, baby birds will become too large for the nest and will attempt to take their first flight. Although they cannot fly very far, as long as the adults are around you should leave them be. If you have a cat or dog that may bother the baby birds, try to keep them inside until the adult gets them to a safer place. If the chicks appear to be too young to get around and you can reach the nest, put gloves on and place the bird back into the nest. If the bird appears to be injured, contact our Wildlife Division office for a local rehabilitator to contact.
What type of habitat is necessary for different species? Can I get a landowner grant?
The N.H. Fish and Game Department has a Small Grants Program to help landowners with a minimum of 25 acres restore or enhance habitat for wildlife. Funding of up to $2,000 per year (no more than $6,000 over a ten-year period) is available for the creation and/or maintenance of wildlife habitat within the property. Examples of projects that may qualify for funding include: brush clearing or mowing to maintain grasslands and shrub-lands; release of old apple trees; and maintenance of woodland openings. In exchange for the grant, landowners agree that their land will remain open for non-motorized public access activities, including hunting. For more information, contact the Wildlife Division at (603) 271-2461, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. For general inquiries regarding how to create particular wildlife habitats, contact UNH Cooperative Extension at (603) 862-3594.
A turtle is laying eggs on the side of the road, lawn, sandbox, etc., what should I do?
Between May and July, female turtles will leave the water and seek out soft, sandy soils in which to dig a hole, lay their eggs, and then return to the water. Unfortunately, turtles are often seen laying eggs on the soft shoulders of roads. The best thing to do is to leave them alone and hope for the best. The eggs will hatch sometime between September and October. Once hatched, the infant turtles' instinct is to head for the water. Often a turtle may lay eggs in an area that is going to be disturbed, such as a child's sandbox or a pile of loam that is going to be spread. If this is the case, you can attempt to relocate the nest in a nearby area that will not be disturbed. Carefully dig up the eggs, noting how deep they were buried, and relocate them in a similar soft/sandy soil at the same depth. With any luck, come September or October, the eggs will hatch.
I found a dead bird, what do I do?
Contact the N.H. Department of Health and Human Services to report dead bird sightings. A toll-free number has been established for reporting and providing information regarding West Nile virus. The number is 1-866-273-6453. You may also find information at the following website: www.dhhs.state.nh.us/DHHS/BCDCS/West+Nile+Virus/default.htm.
A fisher, fox, or coyote is in my yard going after my cats, small dog, or livestock. What can I do?
The best thing to do is to keep your cat inside, especially at night, which is when these predatory animals are most active. Fisher, fox and coyote are all species located throughout New Hampshire that prey upon small animals, including squirrels, chipmunks and rabbits -- as well as domestic cats, very small dogs, or livestock such as chickens. When your pets or livestock are roaming outside, they are leaving their scent wherever they go. This is what attracts these predators. If you feel you must let your cat out, you may want to consider being outside with it, since fisher, fox and coyote keep their distance from humans. If you have a small dog, be outside when it is outside. If you have livestock, such as chickens, keep them in a pen instead of letting them roam. You can contact N.H. Fish and Game's Wildlife Division to contact Wildlife Control Operators to remove the fisher, fox or coyote, but be forewarned -- as long as your cat, dog or livestock is allowed to roam, other predators may be attracted in.
I saw a raccoon (skunk, fox, etc.) during the day. Is it rabid?
Not necessarily. These animals are generally nocturnal (active during the night), however, it is not unusual to see them during the daytime. For example, during the spring, adults will be cforaging for food day and night for their young. If you see any type of unusual behavior, such as an animal pacing back and forth, or signs of aggression, contact the N.H. Fish and Game Dispatch Line at (603) 271-3361 or call your local police. Click here to download the brochure, Wildlife, Rabies and YOU!
I think I saw a timber rattlesnake. What should I do?
We receive many calls like this throughout the spring and summer. Most of the time, what people actually are seeing is a milk snake. The milk snake is a common species in the state. It is a light-colored snake with copper-brown blotches going down its body. When startled, the milk snake will coil up and vibrate its tail so rapidly that it makes a buzzing noise which is often confused for the rattle of a rattlesnake. All milk snakes will have a V or a Y shaped blotch on the top of their head just behind the eyes. So, if you should see a snake with blotches or one that is coiled up making a buzzing noise, look for the V or Y shape blotch on its head, which will confirm that it is indeed a milk snake. (Milk snakes are the only snake in New Hampshire that is a constrictor, it wraps around its prey -- mice, small birds, and other snakes -- and suffocates it. The milk snake is non-poisonous). Rattlesnakes are endangered and very few in number in New Hampshire. Click here to download Protect the Timber Rattlesnake,* (PDF, 125 KB) a flyer containing color photographs of the timber rattler and other commonly misidentified NH snakes.
A bird flew into the window and is stunned... what do I do?
Leave it alone. If it is stunned, it needs to rest and will fly off when it is ready. If it appears to have more of an injury, such as an injured wing, contact the Wildlife Division to find a wildlife rehabilitator nearby that you can contact.
A bird (robin, crow, etc.) keeps flying/fighting with itself in my window... is it sick?
No, it is not sick. Sometimes when a bird sees its reflection in the window, for territorial reasons, it will try to fight with the reflection. If this is occurring in a small basement window, you can try covering the window with cardboard or another material so the bird cannot see its reflection. You can also hang window decals, which may distract the bird from its own reflection.
I hear a blood-curdling screech or scream during the night... what is it?
Grey fox and red fox can sometimes make this noise.
Can game birds carry West Nile Virus (WNV) and can I get WNV from processing or eating a game bird?
The National Wildlife Health Center has found that a number of game bird species including ruffed grouse and waterfowl have tested positive for WNV. For a complete list of species, go to www.nwhc.usgs.gov/research/west_nile/wnvaffected.html. There is no evidence that WNV can be transmitted to humans through consuming infected birds or mammals. However, wearing rubber or latex gloves when handling and cleaning wild game is recommended to prevent blood exposure to bare hands. You should fully cook any meat you consume. For more info, go to the Center for Disease Control website at www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvbid/westnile. The Q&A section explains this subject in more detail and gives hunters precautions to follow. The N.H. Department of Health and Human Services has established a toll-free number for reporting and providing information regarding West Nile virus; call 1-866-273-6453. For more: www.dhhs.state.nh.us/DHHS/BCDCS/West+Nile+Virus/default.htm.
Where can I find topo maps or maps of Fish and Game properties or Wildlife Management Areas?
The N.H. Fish and Game Department has created maps and collected information 25 of our largest Wildlife Management Areas (click here). We also recommend:
- The DeLorme Atlas and Gazetteer of N.H. -- the front of the atlas lists state properties, and they are highlighted on the maps within the book.
- Conservation lands can also be mapped using GRANIT at granitweb.sr.unh.edu/clv_phase1/viewer.jsp.
- A good source for topographic maps of the state is www.topozone.com.
I want to remove a beaver dam on my property... can I do it myself?
Before removing any beaver dam, you should review the Wildlife Profiles section of our website. It explains the functions and importance of beaver dams to other wildlife as well as alternatives to removing a dam, such as installing beaver piping. If you must remove a beaver dam, you can remove a small dam with hand tools. However, if you bring machinery and equipment in to remove the dam, you must first contact the N.H. Department of Environmental Services Water Division at 603-271-3503 for approval.
What should I do about "nuisance" wildlife?
Contact USDA Wildlife Services at 603-223-6832 (USDA - www.aphis.usda.gov/wildlife_damage) Also - Cornell University Cooperative Extension has an excellent website with lots of information about wildlife control - wildlifecontrol.info
Whom do I contact for information about insects?
The N.H. State Entomologist is located within the N.H. Department of Agriculture. The number to call is (603) 271-2561.
Whom do I contact for information about rabies/Lyme disease?
For questions about rabies and Lyme disease relating to people, you should contact the N.H. Department of Public Health at (603) 271-4496. If you have questions relating to the possibility of an animal with rabies, you should call one of the following N.H. Fish and Game numbers:
Law Enforcement - (603) 271-3361 Wildlife Division - (603) 271-2461 Region 1 Office - Lancaster (603) 788-3164 Region 2 Office - New Hampton (603) 744-5470 Region 3 Office - Durham (603) 868-1095 Region 4 Office - Keene (603) 352-9669
Where can I look for more information about N.H. wildlife?