To Rescue or Not to Rescue Uh-OH

Living With Wildlife Take 2

Uh-OH. You see wildlife stressed and in pain. What do you do? 

First, you must assess the situation. Are you going to attempt a rescue or let nature do Her thing? 

Are you prepared to do a rescue? 

If you want to do a rescue, say a fox just broke its leg and you’re on the side of the road and you want to take it to Sonoma Wildlife Rescue. The first thing to do is to call them and make sure it’s okay. Their number is 707-992-0274. You will need a towel and a cardboard box or a kennel. What I’m about to tell you will work for a multitude of rescues if that’s the path you choose to take. Make sure to keep an eye on your patient, they will ask you if you have eyes on it.

Now, the first one can be hard, especially if you’re alone.  If you decide to do a rescue NEVER attempt to rescue the following:

A full grown raccoon, a baby bear, a full grown (even if small) deer, coyote, bobcat, or a River Otter. All these guys can be really intense and you should call for backup or advise. 

Okay, you’ve decided to commit. First thing, take a deep breath and calm those nerves as best you can. Now, before you do this rescue, it’s important to have a game plan. Where is the road? Will they run? Are you safe? Where is the injury and where is my target to grab? You know this rescue is all on you. No one else will be responsible if you get hurt. 

You will need a cardboard box, a blanket or towel, and hopefully a friend to help. Take the blanket or towel and toss it over the injured wildlife. That makes them stop and say “What just happened?!” You take that opportunity to get a good grasp and because you’ve stopped to evaluate the situation, you know just where to grab. Your box or kennel is ready and open and it’s sitting right next to the injured wildlife. It’s handy to have a partner nearby to hold that door or flap open and shut it once you have deposited the wildlife. If you are rescuing a bird, a cardboard box is best. Close it up and make it dark. Immediately they will feel better. When dealing with birds it is also important to not put towels in the box because they can get their talons or claws caught. Okay, so now you have your wildlife in a box safely. Try and speak in low voices and drive carefully to the nearest rehab. It’s about a 2.5 hour drive.Typically, the animal is released where it is found. 

So, what happens when we just leave it alone? (Remember, wildlife eats wildlife.) Well, if it’s a deer or something else suffering and needs dispatching, call the sheriff or CHP and they will help you put it down. The CHP can only help, however, if it is on the actual highway.  You can call them  for guidance and see if a warden is around to help you as well. If you can’t get ahold of anybody, make sure to take a picture for documentation of the suffering before you take any action. You must prove that the wildlife was distressed. 

These can be hard choices. We out here in the woods see enough wildlife to know that it’s a harsh world out there for them. They love it though! They wouldn’t have it any other way. 

We can help by doing the following:

DRIVE CAUTIOUSLY!  Ya feel me here? There’s so much beautiful wildlife on the road.

DO NOT FEED WILDLIFE! We have a saying. “A fed bear is a dead bear.” By feeding wildlife, it could possibly spread disease and/or create a nuisance situation. 

One of the saddest things, however, is distemper. That’s a whole article in and of itself. What I do want to say though, is there is nothing, unfortunately, to be done for that (except prevention). Distemper shows itself on foxes, skunks, racoons, coyotes, minks, fischers, and others. It is a viral infection wildlife gets mainly from unvaccinated pets. Signs of distemper are jerky motions, walking in circles, coming close to you without fear, or they may just be lying down and suffering; it depends on what stage it’s in. Things we can do to help prevent distemper are:

  • Vaccinate your puppies for it
  • Do not put out water for wildlife in a standing vessel (highly contagious)
  • Help spread the word

Another super sad one is poison. Those darn rats and mice. I just have to share a Living With Wildlife story. 

So my friend is an exclusionist in NY. He gets a call for some mice to exclude. He goes over and the owner says, I have a weasel now! A wild weasel moved into his house and took out all the mice!! Crazy right? I have another cool story about a rattlesnake here. Back to poisons. Poisons…. I get it, what do we do? If you do decide to use poison, make sure that your rodents don’t exit the dwelling, and poison everyone else. When we poison rodents, we poison everything in the wildlife pantry. Take full responsibility (if indeed that is your method) and make sure if they check in they don’t check out!

If there is wildlife suffering and you can’t do anything about it (although it is truly torturous to watch for some) it is life. Wild life. Hopefully the subject in question has died of natural causes and will be good nourishment for someone else. The wheel of life must turn. 

Living with awesome species such as foxes and hawks is such a privilege. I hope you all are enjoying the company of your wild community. Next time we will talk about exclusion. Meanwhile, here’s some homework: Look up wildlife exclusion and see what you learn. Until then, STAY WILD BABY!!