Urban growth and development have created warm comfortable housing (under decks and against spas) and an abundance of food (pet food and garbage cans). Many wild animals have adapted quite well to this urban environment and some have even managed to flourish.
I Found an Animal
Remember, wildlife becomes highly stressed from human contact and capture. To minimize stress:
- Always keep yourself safe first.
- If you can safely capture the animal, put it in a warm, quiet, undisturbed place.
- Avoid handling it as much as possible.
- Do not give it food or water.
Contact us if you have found an injured wild animal and need help (360) 966-8845.
Don't keep wildlife unless you are licensed.
Many state and Federal laws prohibit the keeping of wildlife unless you are licensed to do so. Wildlife Rehabilitators are trained to care for many types of wildlife, know the natural history of wildlife, work with veterinarians and have received the proper permits. They can provide the most appropriate foods, socialization and medical care to help return the animal back to the wild. Many internet tips on what to feed wildlife are incorrect and can lead to the animal’s death.
Not all wildlife needs our help.
Keep in mind that not all wildlife needs our help. For example:
- Baby birds with feathers spend some time on the ground as they learn to fly and their parents are usually nearby.
- Fawns are left alone for several hours while their mothers go off to feed.
Read the information on Finding Injured Wild Animals for more information.
If you find a bat on the ground do not touch it! Bats in Washington can carry rabies and it is transmitted through the animals’ saliva. Call a wildlife center or the health department before rescuing a bat. If you must move it, wear heavy, thick leather gloves and cover all exposed skin. If you are bitten, save the animal for examination, wash the wound immediately with soap and water and call your doctor right away.
If a bat is roosting on a wall or tree, it is most likely fine. Leave it alone. If it falls from its roost, it may need 20 minutes or so to wake up and fly off. Leave it alone.
Fawns – Mother deer leave their fawns alone for large portions of the day. The fawn will settle down and wait for her, curled up in a “don’t notice me” position. This is normal and do not disturb a fawn who is laying down.
If the fawn looks cold, hungry, confused, or sick, call a wildlife center or park ranger. Do not feed the animal. If you must transport the animal, place it in a dog carrier lined with a towel or sheet and cover the carrier with a sheet or towel. Keep it quiet and warm.
Adult Deer – Adult deer are very dangerous and have the potential to hurt or kill you if you try to help them. If the animal is injured please call a wildlife center or the state patrol. Deer are very high stress animals and can actually die from the stress. Keep away from injured adult deer.
For more information, check out this Animal Tales article published by the Bellingham Herald: What should I do if I see an injured deer or fawn?
Adult opossums are not typically aggressive. If injured, they can be placed into a pet carrier or box by grabbing the base of the tail while wearing thick leather gloves. Avoid the head and mouth. You can also use a shovel to gently lift them into a box. If the opossum is dead, check the pouch (which is on the abdomen) for babies. If there are babies attached to the nipples in the pouch, bring the dead mom to a wildlife center. Do not try to remove the attached babies. If the babies are not attached, put them into a warm box and take them to a wildlife center.
If you find an opossum that you think is orphaned, call a wildlife center first. If the opossum is 7 inches from nose to rump, it is old enough to be on its own. Do not rescue it unless it is injured.
Baby Rabbits – If you find healthy bunnies that are 4-5 inches long, able to hop, with eyes open and ears up, they do not need help. They are old enough to survive on their own. If you find a smaller healthy bunny, put it back in the nest and leave it undisturbed for several hours. If the nest has been damaged, put it back together and place a light layer of grass over the baby. Leave the area. The mom will only return at dawn and dusk. If the baby is obviously injured or orphaned, call a wildlife center. Put the animal in a warm box with a towel and keep it in a quiet area. Do not feed the bunny and do not handle the bunny! They can die easily from stress. Take to the wildlife center as soon as possible.
Adult Rabbits – If injured, place the rabbit in an escape proof box or carrier. Wear gloves and cover the animal with a sheet or towel and support the back feet when picking it up. Rabbits can kick very hard and may break their own back by doing so. Cover the box or carrier with a sheet or towel to make it dark. Put in a warm, dark, quiet area until you can get it to a wildlife center.
Raccoons are very aggressive animals and should not be handled by the public, unless the animal is so injured that it cannot move. Even young raccoons can be very aggressive. Call a wildlife center before touching or rescuing a raccoon.
Skunks are very aggressive animals and should not be handled by the public, unless the animal is so injured that it cannot move. Skunks are very accurate at spraying and will aim for your eyes, so always wear safety goggles when approaching a skunk. Even baby skunks can spray if they are scared, so call a wildlife center before rescuing a skunk.
Baby Squirrels – If the baby appears uninjured and is warm to the touch, place it in a shallow, towel-lined box a the base of the tree and leave it undisturbed for 4-6 hours. Often, the mother will come down and carry the baby off. She will not come down if people or pets are nearby, so stay clear. If the baby is cold, put a hot water bottle under the towel it is resting on and put at the base of the tree. If the mother does not reclaim the baby within 4 hours or by dark, bring the baby inside and keep it warm until it can be taken to a wildlife center. Injured baby squirrels should be taken to a wildlife center as soon as possible.
Adult Squirrels – Adult squirrels can be very aggressive and they have very sharp teeth and claws. If it is injured, place the animal into a escape proof box or carrier wearing heavy leather gloves. Cover the carrier or box with a sheet or towel and call a wildlife center.
Baby or Fledgling Birds – Contrary to popular myth, touching a baby bird will not cause its parents to reject it. If you find an uninjured baby bird that has no feathers, only soft down or quills, it has probably fallen from its nest. Return the bird to its nest if possible. If you can’t reach the nest, you can make a replacement nest to put in the tallest branch you can reach. The replacement nest can be a small box or a berry basket and it can be attached to the branch with rope or string. Leave the area and watch for the mom bird from a distance. If you don’t see the mom bird coming to the baby in 3-4 hours, you will need to take it to a wildlife center. Injured baby birds should be taken to a wildlife center as soon as possible.
Fledgling birds generally spend a few days on the ground while learning to fly. If the bird has feathers and a short tail, is uninjured, and can stand and hop, it is a fledgling bird and the parents should continue to feed them throughout stage. If there is no danger in the area, they should be left alone. If you think it is orphaned, watch the bird from a distance and see if the parents come and feed it throughout the day. If cats and dogs are a threat, place the bird in nearby bushes or on a tree limb. Try to keep your pets inside. If the fledgling still appears to be in danger or is injured, call a wildlife center.
Adult Birds – A bird that has hit a window should be placed in a warm box and put in a quiet place for 3-4 hours. If the bird has not recovered by then, call a wildlife center. To prevent birds from flying into a window, close drapes, hang blinds or place decals on your window. A bird that has been attacked by a cat or dog should be taken to a wildlife center for treatment. Place two large bells on your outdoor cat’s collar to help warn off birds.
If you find an injured adult raptor, call a wildlife center before trying to handle the animal. If you must handle the raptor, always wear thick, heavy leather gloves and hold tightly to the legs. Cover their heads with a sheet or towel when handling.
Do not go near any marine mammal that is beached. It is against the law to disturb them or touch them. If you think a marine mammal may be injured or sick, call a wildlife center. Mother seals will leave their babies on the beach all day, so it is normal to see them alone. Do not touch the baby seal. Keep pets and children away.
If you find a dead marine mammal, call a wildlife center to get information on how to legally dispose of it. A local marine mammal group may want information on the dead marine mammal, so please call your local wildlife center.
COEXISTING WITH WILDLIFE
Alysha Elsby is the manager of the WHS Wildlife Rehabilitation Center.
She is a licensed wildlife rehabilitator, providing important information on how you can protect & help our native wildlife. Check out her videos on Co-existing with Wildlife.
Week 1: Seal Pups
Week 2: Fawns
Week 3: Baby Squirrels
Week 4: Gulls
Week 5: Orphaned Wildlife
Week 6: Change of Season
Week 7: Deer in Distress
Week 8: Humane Education Animal
Week 9: Winter Bird Feeders
Wildlife is in your yard too!
While many of us may not realize it, a property owner is also a habitat manager. Over 35,000 acres of wildlife habitat are converted to housing and other development each year in Washington. If we continue at this rate, many of our native wildlife species will have few places to live and visit. The things we do, or do not do, in the vicinity of our home have an effect on the quality of habitat for dozens of wildlife species.
Make your yard into a wildlife sanctuary
If you care about preserving wildlife habitat, want to become a better environmental steward, and would like to add beauty and interest to your property, you can create a backyard sanctuary using simple conservation practices and other methods to build a healthy, natural and hospitable backyard habitat. Here are some helpful links:
- Backyard Wildlife Sanctuary (Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife)
- Create a Certified Wildlife Habitat (National Wildlife Federation)
- Backyard Conservation (Natural Resources Conservation Service)
- How do I keep wildlife out of my yard? (Bellingham Herald, Animal Tales)
- What should I do if I see an injured deer or fawn? (Bellingham Herald, Animal Tales)
Wildlife in Winter
To feed or not to feed?
It is common for people to want to feed wildlife, especially during the winter months. While this may seem helpful, it usually does more harm than good. Before you put food out for the wild animals around your home, please be sure you have all the information. Here are some useful links:
- Feeding Native Wildlife (WHS Wildlife Rehab Center)
- Winter Wildlife Feeding (Department of Fish & Wildlife)
- Winter Bird Feeding (Department of Fish & Wildlife)
- Feeding Water Fowl May be Harmful (US Fish & Wildlife Service)
- Nuisance Wildlife (Department of Fish & Wildlife)
- Four Reasons Not to Feed Wildlife (Humane Society of the United States)
- Feeding Wildlife (PAWS)
- To Feed or Not to Feed (Peninsula Humane Society)
Tree Trimming & Power Washing
Deterring Pigeons and Other Birds
Not everyone wants to feed the birds, especially when they eat your garden veggies! Here’s some tips on how to safely keep birds away from the places they shouldn’t be.
- Remove all food and water sources.
- Mount a plastic owl in the area where the pigeons are, but move the owl around every other day so it will look more realistic. A stationary owl is no threat to a pigeon!
- Put Nixalite or some other material that is made up of sharp barbs where the pigeons are perching.
- Hang up wind chimes or blast a radio in their direction.
- Put nets or screens over areas that are off limits to birds.
- If cleaning or disturbing areas where there is bird feces, always dampen the area with water first. This will prevent air-born diseases that are associated with dry bird feces.
- If you want the birds away from you house or a certain area, try luring them to other areas with food or housing.
- Never poison birds; some other animal may eat the dead, poisoned bird and secondary poisoning may occur.
Remember, in Spring, Summer and Fall there may be babies. Make sure mom can get to them to move them and be patient, as it might take some time to relocate all the babies.
- Remove all food and water sources and make bird feeders squirrel-proof.
- Make sure all chimneys, sheds, and attics are closed off from squirrels; these are popular nesting sites.
- Cut branches away from your rood to discourage easy access to attics and chimneys.
- Use ammonia-soaked rags in areas where the squirrels are living.
- Create one-way doors where squirrels are entering/exiting. Put some type of mesh on the door, so that they can see the outside world. Also make the door difficult to open from the outside by putting a tight spring on the door.
- Never poison a squirrel; some other animal may eat the dead, poisoned squirrel and secondary poisoning may occur.
Deterring Skunks and Raccoons
Remember, in Spring and Summer there may be raccoon and skunk babies. Make sure mom can get to them to move them and be patient, as it might take some time to relocate all the babies.
- Remove all food and water sources. Make sure your garbage is secure by putting the cans in a rack or tying them to a support.
- Make sure all chimneys, sheds, decks, and crawl-spaces are raccoon proof. These are popular nesting sites.
- Put metal flashing around trees that are off limits to the raccoons so that they cannot climb them.
- Make fish ponds more than 2 ½ feet deep to discourage the raccoons from wading in the pond to catch your fish. Or put something along the bottom of the pond for the fish to hide in, like a long pipe.
- Blast a radio or shine bright lights in their direction; this will disrupt their sleep and they will hopefully go elsewhere.
- Use moth balls or ammonia-soaked rags in outdoor areas where raccoons are sleeping.
- Create a one-way door if you know where the raccoon is entering/exiting. The door will swing out but will not swing in, locking them out of the space. Make the door difficult to open from the outside by attaching a strong spring to the door. Note that this is not a good solution if there are babies that need to be moved.
Wildlife and Pets
Many wild animals present a danger to our pets. As humans are increasingly encroaching upon wild animals’ natural habitats, wildlife has become more adapted to living in populated areas. Because of this, wild animals, especially predators, come into contact with domestic animals more frequently. There are a number of things you can do to protect your pets from harm by wild animals:
- Pick up pet food after dark.
- Once your pet is inside for the night, lock all pet doors.Property:
- Replace plastic trash cans with metal cans and secure the top. Secure trash cans to a fence.
- If you catch an animal in the midst of a raid, DO NOT attempt to pick up or corner the animal. Use bright lights or loud noises to frighten the visitor(s) away.
- Close the areas around decks, hot tubs, spas, sheds, porches, foundations, and stairways.
If you have any questions about coexisting with your wild neighbors, please call us at 360-966-8845.
Wild animals need your support too!
The Whatcom Humane Society Wildlife Rehabilitation Center is offering Wildlife Care Internship positions between April 1st and October 31st of each year. These are unpaid internships, although housing may be provided.
The start dates of each position are staggered so that full coverage is provided for wildlife care during our busiest time of the year. There will be some overlap between each position. Students may earn college credit through the completion of an internship.
Interns will be involved in all aspects of wildlife rehabilitation from admission to release. This includes: basic rehabilitation skills, cage cleaning, food preparation, animal handling, and daily cleaning and sanitation of the center. Candidates will earn valuable hands-on experience in working with wildlife. Ideal candidates will be mature, honest, enthusiastic to learn, have a good work ethic and a strong desire to work with animals and people. They must be at least 18 years old. Interns could be college students, graduates, veterinary assistants, vet technicians, or someone else who really wants to learn about wildlife care. No experience is required, but candidates should be able to lift at least 35 pounds.
All internships, as mentioned above, will occur from April 1 to October 31. This is our very busy ‘Baby Season.’ During this time we receive an increased number of young orphaned wild animals in addition to our usual number of injured animals. One of the primary jobs of our interns will be the feeding of baby mammals and birds.
The orphans we receive include raccoons, striped skunks, squirrels, a variety of birds, and opossums–just to name a few.
The primary responsibilities of the interns will be: food preparation and feeding, performing intake exams on wildlife, cage cleaning and sanitation, laundry, facility cleaning and sanitation, and administration of medications (under staff supervision).
Length of Internship
Internships will last for 8 to 12 weeks. The start date of each internship is staggered so that there will be some overlap between them. What this means is that there will be more than one intern working at the center at the same time.
The clinic hours vary based on the season. During the busy season the hours are typically from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm. Interns will work a minimum of eight hours each day. Overnight feedings, as often as every two hours, are often required during baby season. Interns who can live onsite are preferred to help with round-the-clock care.
At the Whatcom Humane Society, we strongly believe in keeping wildlife ‘wild’. Our ultimate goal is to release physically and behaviorally healthy animals back into the wild. It is very important that interns understand that this is not a job where you get to “cuddle cute wildlife”. A minimum of contact with the animals is important in order to reduce their stress and prevent them from becoming habituated and imprinted with humans.
We recognize that some injuries and conditions are such that the animal will not be able to be returned to the wild. In those cases, we practice euthanasia as a way to release the animal from pain. Interns would not perform the euthanasia, but would be present when it occurs. This is something interns must be open to accept. Euthanizing an animal remains a challenge for each rehabilitator.
Applications for the 2018 season are no longer being accepted. Please check back next fall for an opportunity in 2019!
The Wildlife Center is not open to the public. Contact us if you have found an injured wild animal and need help.
Located at: Nugents Corner, Everson, WA
Phone: (360) 966-8845
Hours: 8:00 am-8:00 pm