Wildlife: Frequently Asked Questions

FAQs associated with New Hampshire wildlife

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.

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.

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 NH 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 NH Fish and Game Dispatch Line at (603) 271-3361 or call your local police.

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.

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 a licensed rehabilitator.

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.

I hear a blood-curdling screech or scream during the night... what is it?

Grey fox and red fox can sometimes make this noise.

What can be done to help a lone duck, goose or other fowl 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.

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. 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.

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.

I want to remove a beaver dam on my property... can I do it myself?

 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 NH Department of Environmental Services Water Division at (603) 271-3503 for approval. Keep in mind, only remove dams if absolutely necessary. Beaver ponds provide great habitat for many NH species. 

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.

Whom do I contact for information about insects?

The NH State Entomologist is located within the NH Department of Agriculture. The number to call is (603) 271-2561.

What is the status of the CWD surveillance testing in NH?

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 deer, moose, and other members of the deer family. 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 lymph nodes as part of ongoing monitoring and surveillance efforts

Whom do I contact for information about rabies / Lyme disease?

For questions about rabies and Lyme disease relating to people, you should contact the NH Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Public Health Services at (603) 271-4496. If you have questions relating to the possibility of an animal with rabies, you should call one of the following NH 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

Is it OK to feed turkeys during the winter? If so, what is the best type of food for them?

The NH 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.

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).

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.

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.

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.