2016-03-24 / Community

Animal abandonment rises in spring

COMMENTARY /// Wildlife care
By Donna Mahan
Special to The Acorn

The busiest time of year for the California Wildlife Center is upon us. It is baby bird and mammal season, and CWC is already seeing much confusion about how people should deal with abandoned or injured baby animals.

If you find a baby bird or mammal, first call the California Wildlife Center. CWC will instruct you on how to care for the animal until it can be brought to the center.

The State Department of Fish and Wildlife prohibits unlicensed personnel from keeping wildlife for more than 24 hours. Please do not attempt to care for wildlife on your own.

While your intentions may be good, in reality the animal’s chance for survival and release back into the wild may be diminished. Many species imprint easily on humans, making their eventual release less successful.

Keep the animal safe and quiet in a size-appropriate, ventilated box with a lid and a towel as a cushion.

Do not offer food or water unless advised to do so by center staff. Offering or forcing food or water can lead to the animal’s death.

Injured wildlife must be slowly warmed up to their normal body temperature before they receive fluids and food, and this is best accomplished by trained personnel in the California Wildlife Center ICU.

The center often receives animals that have been force-fed something that is not appropriate to that animal because the rescuer found an article on the Internet that recommended it. Often these animals don’t survive long because they cannot digest what they were fed or they have suffered injuries from feeding.

All pigeons and doves feed their babies “crop milk,” a secretion from their own crop that is regurgitated for the baby. Some flamingos and some penguins also feed their babies crop milk.

The crop is a muscular, expandable pouch near some birds’ throats that temporarily stores food. Feeding baby pigeons and doves anything else can cause them harm.

Hummingbirds are also often fed inappropriate diets by well-intentioned rescuers.

Hummingbirds have a sipping beak, and while they can open their beaks, forcing the fragile beaks open to feed the birds risks breaking the beak.

Hummingbirds catch small insects and spiders to satisfy the protein requirements of their diets, but force-feeding them can make them sick or kill them.

At the wildlife center, hummingbird patients are fed a special nectar formula that contains the insect protein they need.

Please take a moment now to put the California Wildlife Center hotline phone number in your phone: (310) 458-9453.

With baby birds and squirrels now in their nests, please put off any tree trimming until next fall or winter. Be ready to offer injured or orphaned wildlife the best chance at rehabilitation and release.

California Wildlife Center on Malibu Canyon Road near Calabasas is a registered nonprofit organization. The organization is funded through individual and foundation donations. For information, visit www.cawildlife.org.

Return to top