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Fireworks and Wildlife

Please remember that dogs and cats aren’t the only ones that can be negatively impacted by fireworks. Our local wildlife also feel the effects when fireworks are set off close to home.

Many birds who flee from their nests due to the sounds do not know how to return to their nests once the noise ends, which leaves many of their young helpless.

Some wild animals such as deer are known to run in blind panic, increasing the number of animal-car collisions.

Fireworks are illegal in Massachusetts. However, there has been an uptick in fireworks being set off across the state. Communities also put on their own fireworks  celebrations for July 4th and sometimes other events. Here are a few tips to help animals:

1. Remove bird feeders and bird baths several hours before scheduled fireworks happen if you are close to the event. This will discourage birds from being in the area and ensure that no ash, debris, or other firework residue inadvertently lands in birdseed or drinking water. If it is not possible to remove the feeders or baths, cover them prior to using the fireworks or thoroughly clean them afterwards.

2. Drive slowly when leaving an event where fireworks were set off. Animals could be running scared. Be prepared to brake suddenly and avoid collisions.

3. If you see debris from fireworks, help clean it up. You should even look for small bits of paper wrappings, spent casings and other detritus. It can also endanger birds and pollute the environment.

4. If you are spending the holiday in a state that allows fireworks and cannot stop neighbors or family from setting them off, ask them to not use fireworks near trees, bird houses, nesting areas, rookeries, brush piles or other sheltered areas where wildlife may be living. Small animals may be invisible under dense cover, but the effects of fireworks used nearby can be drastic and may scare them into the open.

Many of these common sense safety tips can protect pets and nearby wildlife from unnecessary trauma or injuries caused by fireworks. Professionals and local governments tend to follow guidelines put forth by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, among others, about animal safety, though harm is still caused.

Fireworks affect pets and wildlife, but also can traumatize people with PTSD and young children. If your municipality puts on fireworks, advocate for them to look into quiet fireworks — those will less  flashpowder (the chemical that produces the loud sounds). These are growing in popularity.

More information:

“Quiet Fireworks” Promise Relief for Children and Animals, New York Times, June 30, 2016.

Learn the laws regarding fireworks where you plan to spend the 4th.

Shamoun-Baranes, Judy & Dokter, Adriaan & van Gasteren, Hans & Loon, E & Leijnse, Hidde & Bouten, W.. (2011). Birds flee en mass from New Year’s Eve fireworks. Behavioral ecology: official journal of the International Society for Behavioral Ecology. 22. 1173-1177. 10.1093/beheco/arr102.

Join the Animal Action Team to stay up to date on animal issues across the Commonwealth.

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