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SCVNews.com | Opinion/Commentary: Animal Rescuing | 02-23-2017
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Commentary by Evelyne Vandersande
| Thursday, Feb 23, 2017

We are just recovering from the Lucifer storm, and 4 inches of rain have soaked the Newhall area. Many branches were flying in the air, and many trees tumbled down with the storm.

My husband was surprised to see so many birds at our bird feeders in spite of the elements being out of control around us. Birds have a very high metabolism, so they need to eat very often, in spite of the torrential rain.

Also, the nesting season has started, and they all need to be in the best of health to attract a partner and reproduce – one of the most important objectives in their lives. Having bird feeders full during this difficult time for them to find food was one small step to help keep them alive; it would also keep alive the rats that would come at night to eat the seeds fallen on the ground…

I started to think about this “animal rescue” –  feeding the birds is acceptable but not really feeding the rats or even worse, feeding the coyotes. Sometimes the situation doesn’t seem to make sense, so it could be a good time to review a few rules about “rescuing.”

If you leave food for coyotes (which is illegal, by the way) they will feel welcome at your house. They will depend on being fed by you, your neighbors will get scared, the pets will get killed, the contents of your garbage cans will be spread around. Do you see where this is going? Also, there is no way you can provide the balanced diet the animals will find in the wild, so do not try to feed any wildlife – even if they look sooo cute.

The baby rabbits will find what they want to eat in your yard. So will the squirrels, so just look at them and enjoy them. About the only animal you can safely feed are birds, I guess, and please, keep your pets indoors.

You fear the coyotes but are you aware that a great horned howl has the strength to carry off a cat?

Spring has started and those green hills are calling many of us to take a hike. This is the time of the year where you might find a baby animal, all by itself, and you might have an uncontrollable instinct to protect the little creature. Leave it alone, there is a very good chance that the parents are hiding in the bushes close by. If you find a baby bird on the ground with feathers: it is probable that it is learning to fly. Try to put it back in the nest if you can. Otherwise, leave it alone; learning to fly is part of the process of growing up. Some of those fledglings won’t make it and will become part of the food chain. It is not too much fun to think about that, but being fed is necessary to stay alive and there are plenty of birds of prey ready to eat a smaller bird.

If a bird hits your window and is on the ground seeming dazed, it will need some time to collect itself. If you can, grab a book, and sit at a short distance from it to keep cats or people away, you will be helping its recovery. In about 30 minutes, it should be able to fly away.

If it does not and you want to help, this is the time to call a wildlife rehabilitator or a wildlife rescue group. A quick Google search will give you the phone number of a group in your area. You can also get helpful links from the National Wildlife Rehabilitator Association.

Here are some phone numbers that are extremely important to have, keep them in a safe place and use them in case of emergency. Those people have experience, know what they are doing and if they cannot help you with the animal that you have, they will direct you to somebody else with the expertise.

These numbers are golden: Wildlife Care of Southern California (805) 581-3911
California Wildlife Center – Hospital (818) 591-9453
Office (818)222-2658

If you have a raptor in need of help, this is an outstanding place:
Ojai Raptor Center – (805) 798-3600

While you are waiting for help, use your common sense. Each situation is different and your involvement will be different according to the size of the animal, of course.

If it is late and you cannot reach a rehab person in the area, if you understand the responsibility you are taking, if the animal is rather small and you think you want to try to bring it to your home until you can reach a rescue person, if you have some experience with wild animals……The list of “if” is very long and I am trying to discourage you from doing this, but in some situations, it is possible so let’s give it a try: Take a deep breath and relax first, then take a towel or a jacket and cover the animal. An animal in the dark will better handle the stress. Do not squeeze tight. If you have a box, it is even better. Make some holes in the box, before placing the animal inside. Go home and keep the animal in a dark, secure container, lined with a tee shirt. Keep it warm (sometimes a heating pad set on low can be useful at 80-90 degrees); keep it quiet, stress is dangerous always. Do not feed or give anything to drink. Rehabilitators learn how to deal with any situation and if they cannot come to you, bring the animal to them. Do not peek in the box, leave the animal alone. A quiet environment will allow the animal to relax, giving it a better chance to survive. Now, a wise precaution for you to do is to wash your hands, animals carry bacteria.
If you have to drive, relax; do not get tense and anxious. We want both of you to be safe! Keep the radio off and do not talk, animals are not used to our voices. Being quiet is safer.

The rehabilitator will be in charge once they take over. Do not give the animal a name; do not call to ask news. A wild animal will never be a pet so please, do not get attached. Consider giving a donation to help the organization, the care of that animal (medical care and general housing) can get costly.

Never keep the animal yourself. It is against the law to keep a wild animal anyway, and it will have a much better chance with a rehab person.

If you hit a deer on the road, call LA Animal Control at (661) 257 3191. You can stay safely on the side of the road to show the other cars they need to slow down, but that will be the extent of your participation.
If you see a bat on the ground, do not touch it. Call animal control, there is a danger of rabies rather high in our valley.

From personal experience, I have had to deal with pelicans and cormorants on the beach at Ventura who had fishing hooks in their throats. I called animal rescue and waited on the beach sitting at a certain distance from the bird to protect them from dogs and people until the rescue arrived with a big blanket. Last year, many baby seals died on the beach. The water was too warm, the food was scarce for the mothers, and their milk supply was too low to feed those babies. The park rangers would rope off the area of the beach so the animal would be at peace. Pretty sad but they could not cope with the amount of newborns dying. I have put back baby birds in a nest. Birds do not have a sense of smell (except turkey vultures) so they cannot tell if the babies were touched by you.

I have brought in a large dark box 2 baby barn owls to a rehab place far away on the 210 Freeway because the “owl lady” could not come on time.
And then there were the ones I found too late, I knew they were not going to make it and it can get emotional when the animal is barely alive…

Rescuing is not for the faint of heart and is better done by professionals; I guess I will leave it up to you to understand the downside of the situation.

If you need help to find a rehabilitator and cannot find right away a good phone number in your area, call Placerita Canyon Nature Center and ask (661) 259-7721.Please, and I cannot say that often enough, do NOT bring animals to Placerita.We are not a facility that does rehab and we will only give you the phone numbers listed above. Save yourself a trip and additional stress for yourself and the injured animal.

Spring time is a time for renewal, new growth and new lives. We hope that all those lives will be protected and that you won’t have to deal with the drama of animal rescue. If this happens, don’t panic, you are pretty capable to figure out if an animal is really injured or not, and I hope this article will help you to decide what to do. Have a great and peaceful spring.

Evelyne Vandersande has been a docent at the Placerita Canyon Nature Center since 1986. She lives in Newhall.

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1 Comment

  1. Lee Jenkinson says:

    Excellent article with lots of advice and reference numbers. Thank you!

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