(WKBN) — This New Year’s will be the first where Ohioans can legally set off fireworks at home. With an increase in sales partly due to this change, wildlife experts are warning of the dangers fireworks can pose to wild animals.

Since 1991, Birds in Flight Sanctuary has taken care of all kinds of injured wildlife — not just birds.

Sanctuary director Heather Merritt says that when fireworks go off, the sanctuary tends to see an up-tick in hurt or dead animals.

“It’s at night when a lot of birds are roosting or a lot of animals are sleeping, and the loud explosions obviously would terrify them,” Merritt says.

Merritt says it’s difficult to tell exactly how many animals are injured because they panic when they hear and see the fireworks. Only record the end result of how the animal is hurt is recorded.

“If it’s a mammal, they may run out into the street, get hit by a car,” Merritt says. “The birds are flying into buildings or any other obstacle that comes in their way, which could be a tree … because they’re really not in the right state of mind when they do this.”

Merritt says when the animals panic, their fight-or-flight responses kick in and they usually flee — sometimes leaving their young behind.

“They will completely leave their nest, and the babies will die because they get so afraid,” she says,

The problem can be worse in bigger cities with tall buildings. Merritt says rehabilitation specialists have found dozens of dead birds after fireworks displays in years past.

“They’ll run into the buildings, and they will find a lot of dead birds. They may find clusters,” Merritt says.

Food is scarcer in winter for wildlife. Merritt also warns that animals might mistake falling debris as food, which could be toxic.

If you find an injured animal, Birds in Flight suggests the following steps:

  • Assess the animal for injuries, such as shivering, hopping, bleeding or evidence of dead parents nearby
  • Act by carefully removing the animal from a dangerous setting like a roadway, or by calling resources, such as the Ohio Department of Natural Resources at 800-945-3543 or Birds in Flight at 330-652-3381