Keep wild creatures in the wild

SAN LUIS OBISPO — During 2016, Pacific Wildlife Care humanely treated and cared for 2,732 animals. From September through December 2016 they released 231 animals back to the wild and the fall season saw them not overly impacted with starving and sick seabirds as has happened in the past three years. This volunteer organization of wildlife rehabilitation individuals just keeps chugging along like the Energizer Bunny responding to the needs of injured and sick wild animals.
This year they celebrate their 30th anniversary with a free event “Wild in the Plaza” at Mission Plaza in San Luis Obispo on May 13 from Noon to 4 p.m. The public will enjoy seeing owls, hawks, falcons and Virginia opossums, all animals that were injured, cared for, but were unable to be released back to the wild and so serve as educational ambassadors. Jugglers, clowns, singing minstrels provide entertainment with arts and crafts projects, stories, games, a scavenger hunt, and a children’s dress up parade for kids of all ages to enjoy.
In the meantime, the work goes on. Already this season they have taken in 27 baby animals that have been picked up by well-meaning people. Many are birds that appear to have fallen from their nests. At a recent Eco Rotary meeting Kathy Duncan educated members on what to do and what not to do regarding newborn animals and birds.
“For birds,” she said, “observe them for a while. If they are already fully feathered and on the ground, leave them alone especially if you see that the parents are still around.”
Duncan advises that if a bird still has its fluffy down that is the first covering it develops, you might see if you can place it back into the nest. Chances are it has fallen and cannot get back and the parents cannot help it. This is a bird that should be taken to the Pacific Wildlife Center. If it is fully feathered but appears to puff up its wings or hold them out, it could be cold or sick. This bird too should be taken in.
Since it is nesting season it is wise to check bushes and trees before starting to trim them. There could be a nest there. Some birds and animals nest on the ground, so walking your property before mowing is a good idea.
Should you encounter a fawn (baby deer) hunkered down in the grasses in more rural place, please leave it alone. The mother is most likely nearby and will come back to it. Once a young animal like this is picked up and brought to the center it needs to be hand raised and never makes it back to its mother. There are few large animal rehab people available so often this becomes a tragedy for the young animal as it may have to be euthanized. But if you see a baby deer wandering around crying, they do need rescuing. The folks at the Center do work with California Fish and Wildlife in cases like these.
Just as you should leave baby deer alone, you also should not pick up baby harbor seals or sea otters. Harbor seal moms will leave their pup perched on a mudflat while they dive to find fish. A newborn harbor seal doesn’t swim right away but will sometimes be seen floating in the water. The same is true of young sea otters. They are too buoyant to dive so mom leaves them floating, sometimes wrapped in kelp, while she hunts the bottom for delicious clams and crabs.
Don’t feed orphaned wildlife. They could be sick or injured or in shock and need veterinary care. You can call Pacific Wildlife Center on their hotline at 805-543-9453 (WILD) and leave a message. Someone will get back to you promptly!