Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q? If I find a wild animal in distress what should I do?

A.   Safely contain the animal. Put the animal in a warm, dark, quiet place and immediately contact California Wildlife Center or a wildlife rehabilitator/center near you.

Q? Are there any animals that California Wildlife Center will not accept?
A.  CWC does not accept domestic pets such as dogs, cats or caged birds. If you have an ill or injured house pet, please contact your local veterinarian.

Q? Why can't I keep the wildlife that I find?
A.  It is illegal to possess wildlife unless you have a permit or are a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. Almost all native and migratory birds, mammals and reptiles are protected by specific state and federal laws put in place to protect wildlife and ensure that wild animals receive appropriate, adequate, species-specific care when they are sick, injured or orphaned. The ultimate goal of wildlife rehabilitation is to release an animal back to the wild: Any lesser goal is a disservice to the patients we serve here at California Wildlife Center.

Q? How can I keep migrating ducks from taking up residence in my pool?

A. Usually, brightly colored objects floating freely in the water will discourage them from landing on it. Things like beach balls or kids’ toys can be used effectively. Covering the pool until they have moved on also works well.  Keep landscaping clear of low-lying shrubs, grasses and weeds as this creates a suitable environment for duck nests.

Q? Is it OK to feed baby birds bread and milk?

A.NO! Wild birds and mammals require specialized diets. NEVER feed an animal unless instructed by a wildlife rehabilitator (except in the case of Hummingbirds.  Please visit our "Hummingbird Emergency" for detailed instructions).

Q? I found an orphan baby animal. What should I do?

A. If you find a baby wild animal, it is best to leave it alone. Many mammals such as deer and rabbits leave their young unattended for extensive periods of time. Only State Certified Wildlife Rehabilitators are legally allowed to possess native wildlife species including mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles. Improper care of wild animals by well meaning, untrained individuals yields either imprinted wild animals (animals that cannot be released back into the wild) or animals that have nutritional issues resulting in life-long health issues. Inexperienced caregivers also risk serious health problems due to disease and parasite transmission from wild animals.

Each situation is different. The information below may help you. If not, please call California Wildlife Center regarding your specific problem.

Songbird Babies:

Nest Has Fallen: Place the nest in a wicker basket or a small plastic strawberry container (make sure there are drainage holes) and tie it to the nearest tree trunk or branch.  Place the young in the container. Keep children and pets away and observe from afar for two hours for the return of the parent. If you see no activity, call California Wildlife Center.

Fledgling: Feathered but cannot fly: It takes two to three days for most baby birds to learn to fly once they leave the nest. Keep children and pets away. Do not "run down" and catch the baby. If it is chirping, it is communicating with the parent. If it is in danger, for example next to a road, move it to a low branch or a bush. Observe that it is able to jump and/or perch. Leave it alone.

Rare, but truly an orphan: If your dog/cat brings a baby home or your cat kills both parents, call California Wildlife Center. Do not feed the baby. Do not give milk or water.

Baby Mammals: Most "babies" that are seen are probably on their own and have already left their parents. Baby rabbits are on their own by the time they are 3.5 inches in length. Squirrels that have a body length of 5 to 6 inches, and opossums that have a body length of 8 inches are ready to be on their own. If you encounter smaller babies or babies of other mammal species in your yard contact California Wildlife Center

Q? What time of the year is best to trim trees and bushes?

A. In Southern California birds can start nesting as early as January. Most birds are protected under the "Migratory Bird Treaty Act" which states that any known "active" nest cannot be disturbed until the babies have left that nest. Always inspect bushes and trees before trimming. Play it safe and trim in the LATE FALL & EARLY WINTER. Nesting season is usually complete by November.

Q? There is a lot of urban wildlife in my area, what can I do to avoid problems?

  • Never intentionally feed wild animals
  • Don't leave pet food or water outside
  • Always bring your pets inside before dark
  • Shut pet doors at dusk
  • Secure the lids of your outdoor garbage cans
  • Pick ripe and fallen fruit daily
  • Fence or net areas that you wish to protect
  • Clear away woodpiles and brush piles after the winter and keep vegetation neatly trimmed near the house
  • Close access to crawl spaces, attics, sheds and garage spaces. Keep all doors closed at night
  • Use a  motion activated sprinkler that protects gardens by detecting animals and blasting them with water

Visit our "Coexisting With Wildlife" page for information on species-specific situations.

Q? A raccoon or skunk is digging in my yard, what can I do?

A. The best way to stop damage to lawns and gardens is to eliminate the food source that they are searching for; not remove the animal itself, as there will always be another to replace it. The animals are looking for grubs and other subterranean insects that they feed upon. You can use beneficial predator nematodes (can be purchased at a garden store) to effectively control these pests and at the same time stop the unwanted behavior by raccoons and skunks.

You can also try to:

  • Pin new sod to the ground with thin spikes or cover with a thin nylon bird netting and hold down using bricks or rocks
  • Water your lawns in early morning rather than in the evening
  • Sprinkle your lawn or planters with cayenne pepper to discourage grub hunting. For large areas, cayenne pepper can be diluted with water and sprayed over lawns.
  • Protect trees by pruning them back and by wrapping a 2- foot band of sheet metal around the trunk about 4-6 feet off the ground. Trim any branches below 4-6 feet.

Q? How can I protect the fish in my pond from raccoons and other predators?

A. Install a 2-foot wire mesh horizontally around the perimeter of the pond. Leave the wire mesh lightly secured under water (animals cannot reach over the wire and do not like to stand on it if it is unstable).

Provide a nylon netting cover at night or provide a low voltage wire system around perimeter of pond.

Always provide fish with adequate hiding areas. This can be achieved with bricks, rocks and/or plants.

Cover pools at night.

Q? There is an animal under my house/in my attic, what can I do?

A. First, be sure that there are no animals in the area. To do this you can use deterrents such as ammonia soaked rags, mothballs, lights and/or noise to drive the animals out. Close off all but one of the openings around your house. Spread a layer of baking flour in front of the openings to check for tracks of animals coming and going. Once you have seen no new evidence for a couple of days you can safely and securely close off all possible access points to areas such as crawl spaces, underneath decks, basements and attics. Animals can sometimes cause damage to roofs in order to gain access to attic spaces. In this case, prevent animals from climbing to the roof by trimming tree branches or using metal flashing to prevent them from climbing.

Q? There are coyotes in my neighborhood. What should I do?

A. Coyotes are a part of even the most urban environments. Here are things to do that may minimize conflict:

  • Keep small pets indoors
  • Remove outdoor pet food
  • Pick up fallen fruit
  • Remove bird feeders
  • Secure garbage
  • Trim overgrown landscaping
  • Don’t water your lawn at night
  • Supervise small children at play

Never feed coyotes! Most conflicts occur when coyotes associate people with food. This alters their behavior and makes them more dangerous.

If you see a coyote in your yard:

  • Be aggressive, yell or spray a hose at the animal
  • Make yourself appear large and back away slowly
  • Never turn your back or run away

For answers to specific Coyote Coexistence situations, please read our Coyote Coexistence Guidelines

Q? Will you release an animal back to where I found it?
A. Sometimes it is important to release animals back to their own territory, but other times it is not essential. California Wildlife Center staff will consider an animal's individual case and make this determination at the time of release. In each case, it is important that we know where the animal was found and what the circumstances of the injury were at its time of admittance.

Q? Can I see California Wildlife Center’s patients?
A. Our patients are protected by federal privacy rules similar to those governing a human hospital. Human and non-human patients alike may not be put on display.

Q? Will someone call me to tell me how the animal I found is doing?
A. Given the large number of animal intakes per day and the number of patients on site, we are unable to contact individuals to give patient updates.  If you would like an update on the patient you brought in, please contact our Hospital at (818) 591-9453 with the Intake Number you were given for the animal and our staff will be happy to help.

Q? How is California Wildlife Center funded?
A. CWC is a nonprofit organization that receives funds from the generous support of local individuals, families, foundations and businesses who contribute in the form of memberships, private donations, grants, fundraising events and foundation support.  CWC receives no state or federal funding for our services.

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