In the days leading up to the 4th of July, those around the country will be preparing by purchasing fireworks for home use. Typically this is a beloved part of the holiday, but a local wildlife rehabilitation center is warning the public to adjust the way they celebrate, or skip it altogether.
Director of Rehabilitation at Wild Instincts in Rhinelander Mark Naniot says it's not just pets that freak out during annual firework celebrations, fireworks have dangerous effects on local wildlife.
"Their hearing is so much better than ours is," he says. "If you consider how loud these fireworks are to us as humans, it's amplified many times in animals. Sometimes four or five times more."
In addition to startling animals, light can confuse animals used to moving around at night, like bats and herons.
"When you get those aerial fireworks," he says. "They have a profound effect on a lot of the animals we often don't even think about."
Factoring in the time of year, Naniot says some animals are more affected than others.
"It's just about the time of year when bald eagles are leaving the nest," he says. "We've actually had people shoot off aerial fireworks right under the nest or near the nest, causing the chicks to freak out and vacate the nest before they're quite ready to do so. They're not ready to fly yet, so they come down too hard and oftentimes get severely injured."
Another species of bird especially affected this time of year are loons.
"Loon chicks have been hatching out about this last week or so," Naniot says. "A lot of people like to shoot off fireworks over the lake. The parents can get scared and get separated from the chicks, who are vulnerable to predation from muskies, bats, and things. Plus, a lot of times chicks will ride on their parents' backs and if they get separated, they might actually get hypothermia from just being too wet or too cold."
Naniot suggests smoke bombs, sparklers, or attending a public firework show instead of more extravagant home fireworks.
Whether you’re near a lake or in the woods, Naniot says to be aware of your surroundings, what kinds of animals might be living nearby, and how fireworks might affect them.