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.
Not all wildlife needs our help.
- 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.
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.
COEXISTING WITH WILDLIFE
Alysha Evans 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
- 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)
Feeding Native Wildlife
Bloat, diarrhea, emaciation, dehydration, weight loss and hypothermia are sadly just a few of the things that can happen to native wildlife after being fed the wrong diet by humans.
The Whatcom Humane Society wildlife rehabilitation center cares for countless orphaned wildlife of all species that have been fed by well – meaning members of the public. This may seem like the right thing to do, after all these are babies that no longer have a mom and need nutrients right away – or so “the internet says.” In reality, orphan wildlife requires such specialized care, and more often than not, feeding is the last thing that licensed wildlife rehabilitators will do when receiving an animal in need.
If an animal is truly orphaned, it is generally suffering from dehydration, emaciation/starvation and hypothermia. Feeding an orphan who is showing these signs can cause further damage as they are using all of their energy reserves to stay alive, let alone digest food. This goes for adult wildlife as well. They simply cannot process whole food when suffering from conditions such as emaciation. When an animal has gone without food and water for long periods of time and they are fed commercially bought formulas/food, or worse yet, human food, they go through what is called re-feeding syndrome. The body spends so much energy trying to break down nutrients and digest what is given when it should be focusing on staying warm and alert. The worst thing that humans can do for an animal in this state is provide an incorrect diet.
Wildlife rehabilitation exists so that these animals can have a second chance at living in their native wild habitat. Licensed wildlife rehabilitators are trained to be able to diagnose common symptoms that go along with animals becoming orphan or starved. Treatment often includes a stabilization process of heat and fluids before any feedings are done, and sometimes this process takes days. Wildlife rehabilitators are also able to order or make formulas and feeding supplements that are designed for each specific species of animal. For example, feeding an orphaned cottontail rabbit kitten formula is one of the worst things we can do. The formula is not designed for these small mammals and will cause bloat, diarrhea, weight loss and ultimately can lead to the death of the animal. Wildlife benefit from being fed a diet that is formulated for their specific needs and gastro-intestinal functions.
Every year, the WHS wildlife rehabilitation center encounters well-meaning citizens who bring the center orphaned wildlife that they have been feeding for several days. The reason that these animals finally make it to our facility is because they have become lethargic. By the time that we are able to start treatment, they are often too far gone and have sustained severe injury to their organs and are not able to pull through. They are emaciated, dehydrated and lifeless. This is most often avoidable if the animal is brought to the WHS wildlife center for care right away. Sadly, many residents explain to our center staff that they just wanted the experience of caring for a wild animal, they wanted to domesticate the animal and make it a pet, or they love wild animals so much that they just wanted to do something to help.
This past year our center received a juvenile red – tailed hawk that was found by a citizen who fed the bird chicken breast and coca cola for several days. By the time the hawk was brought to the wildlife center, he had suffered severe crop stasis – a very painful condition with a poor outcome. He was so dehydrated and emaciated, that even with heroic efforts on behalf of our wildlife center staff, the beautiful bird died a painful death.
The WHS wildlife rehabilitation center receives many calls from citizens who have found animals and insist on keeping them in their home because “they know what works.” It is important to recognize that in Washington State, it is illegal to keep native wildlife. Orphaned and injured native wildlife must be transferred to a licensed wildlife rehabilitation center.
The same problems associated with feeding orphaned baby wildlife also apply to adult animals. One of the most common issues the WHS wildlife center treats is the case of angel wing – a severe deformation of flight feathers in birds when they are fed bread. Emaciation and bloat are commonly found when deer are fed commercial grains or bread. Hair loss, juvenile cataracts, delayed development when raccoons are fed nothing but bird seed.
One of the biggest issues that occur in Whatcom County in regards to inappropriate human interaction/feeding of wildlife is the feeding of deer. Deer do very well on their own – without any human interaction, especially food. Most of the food that the public can purchase for deer is commercial and not easily digestible for a wild animal. Deer are ruminants and have very special needs and digestion. Foods like grains, breads and bird seed are inadequate for the long term health of deer. When food like this is provided to deer, they will eat it as it is an easy and tasty meal (like donuts to humans) but they will not get the nutrients that they need. Then they become thin, dehydrated, have diarrhea and can bloat.
When deer get so used to easy food sources that they can become habituated and lose their fear of humans. This poses such a threat to humans, domestic animals and deer, especially as rut season approaches. A deer that is not afraid of people is a deer that is not truly “wild”. The WHS wildlife rehabilitation center sees a spike in malnutrition cases of deer in winter months when commercial feeds are at their highest distribution by the public. Deer are equipped to be able to find food sources like lichen and bark during cold weather and are able to digest these types of food. This food is what their bodies expect, not grains and fruits. Deer who consume large quantities of commercial foods in the winter are at risk of literally starving, as they are not able to process the food and become weak.
In the summer, deer are designed to eat all of the browse and new foliage that grows in abundance in the community. If they are nursing fawns, they are eating a rich diet to provide enough milk.
Feeding deer and creating a “bond” with the animal can not only harm the animal from a nutritional standpoint, but also endangers the animals as they lose their fear of people. The majority of deer received by the WHS wildlife rehabilitation center that are the victims of car accidents are deer that are in fact, too used to humans and have lost their ability to sense danger. Many deer that attack dogs or other domestic animals due so because they have become habituated to their surroundings and lost their fear of humans. It is a vicious cycle and one that is truly harmful for this species. So in a nutshell…please do not feed the deer!
To contact the Whatcom Humane Society Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, please call (360)966-8845.
Household ammonia is a very safe and effective tool for keeping critters away. Soak rags in ammonia and place them around the edges of your yard or garden, under your deck, porch, crawl space or wherever animals have been giving you trouble. Refresh the ammonia every few days until you are sure the animals have moved onto a less fragrant dwelling.
If you have concerns about large carnivores on or around your property, please contact the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
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.
- 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
- 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
- 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!
How your generosity helps
- $50 = 3 days of food for injured swans
- $100 = vaccinations and de-wormer for 10 animals in our small mammal nursery
- $200 = full service veterinary treatment, supplies and medication for an injured bald eagle or owl
- $500 = 1 month of gas for the wildlife rehabilitation center vehicle
- $1000 = 3 months of infant formula for orphaned fawns
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.
Length of Internship
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