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Creature Comforts: How To Care For Injured Wildlife

Creature Comforts: How To Care For Injured Wildlife

Last week my three children found an injured Red-shouldered Hawk in our driveway sitting in a puddle being harassed by two of our cats. Our oldest daughter who raises chickens and does not have a phobia of large birds, decided she could get it into a cage. “Yeah” yelled the other kids. “Then you can take it to your clinic and treat it.” Uh, no, that would not be happening. It’s cute that our children are still young enough to think that their mom and dad, the vets, can treat anything. However, there are some things best left to others, and therefore we did what I have been doing since I started practicing in this area….we called Critter Creek.

If you haven’t heard of Critter Creek before, this article is for you. Critter Creek Wildlife Station is a non-profit wildlife rehabilitation center licensed and permitted by the Department of Fish and Game, the Fish and Wildlife Services, and the USDA. Located in Squaw Valley, east of Fresno, Critter Creek is a centralized facility that takes in, rehabilitates, and releases back into the wild orphaned and injured California native wildlife. Some permanently injured wildlife, once comfortable around the public, are used for educational programs. Others that remain wild are used as foster parents and surrogate companions. Occasionally, non-native wildlife also find their way to the facility as the result of illegal pet confiscations, abandonment, or abuse.

The list of animals cared for by Critter Creek is exhaustive, but includes owls, hawks, eagles, vultures, falcons, kites, merlins, bobcats, coyotes, fox, raccoons, weasels and opossums. So, what should you do if you find an injured wild animal? Contact Critter Creek as soon as possible before the injured animal does damage to you or itself (559) 338-2415. The staff member or volunteer that answers your call will instruct you on what to do next. If you find an adult bird and you are not familiar with how to handle raptors or if you have found an injured adult mammal, call first BEFORE you approach the animal. Most injured wild animals are frightened and may bite. If it’s a baby bird or mammal, and you must move it quickly before calling, use gloves. If you panic and can’t remember the name or phone number for Critter Creek, you can call the local emergency services for small animals (Tulare Kings Veterinary Emergency Services, which is in the phone book under veterinary emergency, and comes up in a quick internet search for our area). We are used to handling calls for wildlife and will help you contact Critter Creek. As well, your veterinarian is most likely familiar with this organization and can assist you during regular business hours.

As with all non-profits, donations are greatly appreciated. Besides monetary donations, cat litter (non-scoopable), ceramic bowls, building supplies, fruit hoses, and tools are all badly needed. The station is also supported by their Open House days and visits by families, individuals, or school groups. As well, they produce a quarterly newsletter which highlights activities and announcements. Please take a moment and visit their website at crittercreek.org for more information.

Remember, it is illegal to possess native wildlife for the intent of keeping them as pets or rehabilitating them without the proper permits. If you find an injured wild animal, do the right thing and call immediately.

- Dr. Kelly Anez, DVM is a veterinarian at Pacific Crest Equine, 2500 E. Myer Ave. in Exeter, Calif. For questions, please call her at 592-4753.

- This column is not a news article but the opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of The Foothills Sun-Gazette newspaper.

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