How can we help injured wildlife?
The majority of juvenile wildlife you might find on your walks does not need rescue, even if the parents are absent. Baby birds have to learn to fly, so it's not unusual to see them on the ground during the learning process. If you see a bird fallen from a nest, pick it up safely and put it back in. If you find both babies and nest on the ground, find an appropriately sized container with drainage that can substitute for the nest structure, affix it to a tree or other structure out of reach from ground predators, and return the babies to safety.
Many young mammals are left in safe spots by their mothers while they go grazing or hunting. Do not try to rescue an apparently abandoned baby animal. On the other hand, if you find an animal that's clearly injured, the best course of action is to call your local Fish and Wildlife or a licensed rescue facility and let them assess the situation. They might ask you to pick up the animal in distress and bring it to them. Remember to do so safely; use a towel and a container with a lined bottom that can be closed during transport. Do not attempt to pick up an animal that could injure you or your family like a bobcat or a large raptor, those cases are best left to someone who has proper animal handling training.
In incorporated areas of San Diego County, call the HUMANE SOCIETY (619-299-7012) between 7:30 AM and 10 PM for any animal emergency concerning smaller animals and raptors. After 10 PM, call you local enforcement agency.
For the unincorporated areas of San Diego, call Animal Services 24/7 for any animal-related emergency (619-236-2341).
FUND FOR ANIMALS in Ramona (760-789-2324) rescues all animals including large mammals like bobcats, mountain lions and coyotes.
You can find a list of California Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation facilities here.
How can we help raptors in our backyard (and control pests)?
We kill thousands of raptors (and other top predators) every year using open bait mouse and rat poison. Typically, rodenticide is either an anticoagulant or a neurotoxin. Affected rodents become easy prey for a variety of wildlife, especially young raptors looking for an easy catch.
Another very common cause of raptor death is lead. Lead bullets and shot are officially banned in California but are by no means out of circulation. Lead is toxic to us and even more toxic to birds, which have very strong stomach acid and can easily dissolve lead shot or a lead sinker. You can read about all the problems lead is causing for California Condors, Bald Eagles, and other scavengers just about everywhere online, or you can start here.
If you want to solve a rodent problem in your backyard, think about it as a micro-ecosystem that needs to be balanced, rather than controlled with poisons. Your goal should be to help establish a healthy food chain and encourage predators to visit your space.
- Use native plants in your backyard. Many landscaping plants are actually toxic to wildlife, but not to pests like rodents who colonize our urban areas. You can research which plants will do well in San Diego here or here. You'll promote a healthier ecosystem starting from the bottom layer of the food chain.
- If you need to act fast do not buy rodenticide, but rather live trap or use an electrocution trap (it's way more humane than poisoning). If you poison, you'll kill 100% of you local raptors but only a fraction of rodents, who will then come back with a vengeance in a couple of months, forcing you to buy more and more poison.
- if you want to go all out, invite raptors to live in your backyard by planting some natives and put up a barn owl box or a kestrel box. Find out if your area supports these extremely effective pest-eating friends and look online for box plans (free) or order one from a local company that will also install them.
Also check the following online raptor resources:
The Peregrine Fund for all things raptors
The American Kestrel Partnership for some cool citizen science projects
The Vulture Conservation Fund for more info on the plight of the vultures and what you can do to help
R.A.T.S. for more resources on poison and food chains
If you love all our feathered friends, there is no place better than the Audubon Society to learn about all things avian!