Opossums are marsupials. Their babies are born very tiny, no bigger than a dime, and the mothers carry them in a pouch. When the babies grow bigger, they cling to the mother’s back until they are so large they fall off and start life on their own. Solitary and nocturnal, they are rarely active during daylight; they look for a safe, dark place to sleep. Opossums eat a wide variety of foods, including garden snails, slugs, insects, mice, fruits, and snakes. They will also opportunistically seek out dog and cat food, as well as trash. When confronted or startled, they will run away or may “play dead”—lying motionless for up to an hour. If cornered, opossums gape their mouths, showing off their 50 pointy teeth, trying to look as fearsome as possible. They very rarely bite, but when they do, watch out!
Hit by car or attacked by dog: If it can be safely put into a secure container without touching the animal, it can be brought to the wildlife hospital. Otherwise, call Animal Services (in Contra Costa County, call (925) 335-8300). If you find a dead opossum, check to see if it has a pouch on the lower abdomen. If there are babies in the pouch, bring her to the hospital without removing the babies from the pouch—removing the babies is very dangerous.
Orphaned young opossums: If the opossum is 8 inches from the nose to the base of the tail or larger, it is okay to leave it alone—this is the normal age for them to leave their mothers. If it is less than 8 inches or is injured, place it in a warm, dark container and bring it to the wildlife hospital as soon as possible. They require special diets, so no food or water should be offered.
Opossum under the house: Remove all outdoor dog and cat food before sunset; otherwise, opossums will be attracted to your yard. Keep trash cans securely covered. If you hear an opossum under your house during the day, it is looking for a safe place to sleep. Look for any gaps or openings that it is using to get in, wait for it to leave to forage at night, and close all openings securely (hardware cloth can be very helpful). Motion sensitive lights and sprinklers will discourage opossums from hanging around your yard. Opossums will avoid noise and disturbance.
|Foxes or Coyote|
Coyotes and foxes are found throughout California in a variety of habitats, including urban areas. Problems occur when people begin feeding coyotes and foxes, either deliberately or inadvertently. Coyotes and foxes quickly lose their natural fear of people and become bold and aggressive.
Coyotes resemble a small German Shepherd dog, with the exception of the long snout and bushy, black-tipped tail. Coyotes are extremely adaptable and can survive on whatever food is available. They hunt rabbits, mice, cats, birds, and other small animals, as well as young deer and sheep. They will also eat carcasses and “hand-outs” from people in the form of table scraps, pet food, and garbage.
If you find a fox or coyote: Do not attempt to handle or feed it. Call animal control to have it picked up (in Contra Costa County, call (925) 335-8300).
Baby coyote or fox alone: Make sure it really is alone. Move away from the area and observe from a distance for at least a few hours to see if a parent returns. If the baby is truly orphaned, place the animal into a secure container and keep it warm, dark, and quiet. Do not give it food or water, and do not touch it with your bare hands. Bring it to the hospital as soon as possible.
Injured fox or coyote: Place the animal into a secure container. Do not give it food or water and do not touch it with your bare hands. Bring it to the museum as quickly as possible.
Black-tailed deer, a subspecies of the mule deer, are common throughout Northern and Central California. Preferring open chaparral, they’ve learned to adapt to small patches of open space in urban areas, and are frequently found in many neighborhoods.
Black-tailed deer form small family groups, which are most active early in the morning and again at dusk. Fawns are born in late spring or early summer, having spotted coats for about three and a half months. Each doe has one or two babies. Fawns begin foraging for food on their own when one week old, but nurse heavily for at least two months. Rarely traveling very far, deer live most of their lives close to where they’re born.
“Abandoned” fawn: Does hide their babies for the first week of life so they can go off to feed, often for the entire day. These babies are not abandoned; the mother is most likely out of sight watching you. If you find a fawn lying quietly in the grass, leave it where it is—stay back and stay out of sight, and keep dogs as far away as possible. The mother will not return if she senses people and dogs are too close. If a fawn has been picked up, return it to the exact location it was found, or within sight of that spot. Stay back several hundred feet, and watch for the mother’s return, which can take many hours.
If the fawn appears injured, bring it to the wildlife hospital or call animal services (in Contra Costa County, call (925) 335-8300). Fawns are terrified of people and respond by being as quiet and small as they can get. A fawn carried in a person’s lap or hearing human voices will be very frightened. If you need to move a fawn, keep as quiet as possible; touch it as little as possible. Fawns have a very special diet and can become ill if given the wrong diet, so there is no need to offer them food or water before arriving at the hospital.
Injured adult: Adult deer cannot be treated. The stress and fear associated with captivity is more than they can endure. Fortunately, many injuries can heal on their own. The best advice is to leave them alone, keeping dogs and people as far away as possible. If the deer is down or broken bone is exposed, call animal control.
Chased by dogs: When chased by dogs for long periods, deer can collapse from overheating. Remove all dogs from the area, stay several hundred feet back, and watch if the deer revives, which may take several hours. If the deer does not recover, call the wildlife hospital or animal control for advice.
Deer from another area: Lindsay Wildlife Hospital cannot accept fawns from outside of the area. Fawns can only be accepted from Contra Costa County and Alameda County, north of I-580.
Note: Deer are not affected by poison oak; in fact, it is a favorite food. Avoid skin contact with deer, since they may have poison oak oils on their bodies. They may also have ticks—check carefully for ticks whenever encountering deer. In addition to the antlers of the males, deer have sharp hooves and kick very hard. Even fawns can cause injury when they kick.
The Bay Area is home to thirteen species of bats. They are classified as protected non-game species: they may not be harmed (except under special conditions set by Department of Fish and Wildlife). Bats are very beneficial because they eat a large variety of harmful insects, from mosquitoes to Jerusalem crickets. Some bats roost in trees; others live in colonies, roosting inside buildings.
Bat on the ground: Do not touch the bat. A bat on the ground should be considered ill or injured.
Cover the bat with a jar or can. Gently slide a piece of cardboard under the bat, enclosing it in the container. Place a secure lid on the container. Take it to the nearest wildlife rehabilitation organization or call your local animal control (in Contra Costa County, call (925) 335-8300) for pick up.
Bat caught by cat: Do not touch the bat. Hold a cardboard tube (from a paper towel roll with one end closed) up to the bat. The bat should crawl into the tube. Gently plug the open end of the tube. Or, carefully cover the bat with a jar or can, gently work the bat into the container and cover it quickly. Make sure you do not touch the bat. Call your local animal control as soon as possible. Cats can contract rabies from bats and then pass it on to people. Contact your veterinarian to check on your cat’s rabies vaccination status.
Bat bite or contact with a bat: Immediately wash the wound with soap and water. Contact your local animal control or county health department and seek medical advice. The bat should be euthanized and tested for rabies to determine if post-exposure rabies injections are required. While most bats are healthy, bats are considered a common rabies carrier.
Fear of bats: Not all bats have rabies; in fact less than 1/2 of 1% contract rabies. Bats do not deliberately fly into hair; they are usually hunting mosquitoes.
California Bat Conservation Fund
Bat Conservation International
|Gopher or Mole|
Pocket gophers are burrowing rodents, so named because they have fur-lined pouches on each side of the mouth, which are used to carry food. They have small ears, small eyes, and large incisor teeth that are always outside the lips. Moles are insectivores with large, paddle-like front feet and pointed snouts. They have tiny eyes and no external ears. They are not rodents. Moles spend all of their time underground and rarely appear on the surface.
Injured: Wearing gardening gloves, place it in a secure container and bring it to the hospital. Gophers and moles can bite—do not touch it with your bare hands.
Baby gopher or mole: Baby gophers and moles should not be out of the underground nest; bring it to the hospital.
Raccoons are nocturnal—they need a quiet, dark place during the daytime. They are attracted by pet food, ripe fruit, and water. Their nesting season begins in February and can go through October. Litters average 2 to 7 babies, and they are weaned after 12 to 16 weeks. Adult raccoons are usually solitary, but young raccoons may stay with their mother during the winter, either in the same den or nearby. They den in tree cavities, underground burrows made by other animals, and human-made structures, such as chimneys, basements, attics, spaces, under patios, and between walls.
It is not good to feed raccoons, either intentionally or unintentionally. Don’t leave pet food outside at night; keep ripe fruit picked; and keep garbage cans securely covered or inside a garage at night. Raccoons are excellent climbers and are very dexterous. Raccoons cannot be relocated. A territory left open by removing one animal will be quickly filled by another. It is also illegal in California to relocate animals. Please do not give food or water to any injured or orphaned animals. Due to disease concerns such as rabies, canine distemper, and raccoon roundworm, raccoons cannot be relocated.
Young raccoon alone: If under the house or in a nest area, leave them alone so the mother will return. If in an inappropriate area (out in the open), wait until evening to see if the mother returns. They may be placed in a box that they can’t get out of, but the mother can get in. Do not handle the raccoons with your bare hands. Since raccoons are nocturnal, the mother will not return until night. If the mother doesn’t return, call us at (925) 935-1978 in the morning. Occasionally, on a case-by-case basis, we may recommend waiting two nights before bringing them to the hospital.
Hit by car: If the raccoon can safely be put into a secure container without touching the animal, it can be brought to the hospital. Otherwise, call animal control (in Contra Costa County, call (925) 335-8300), especially for adult raccoons.
Injured raccoon in your yard: Lindsay Wildlife Hospital will loan traps (a refundable cash deposit is required) to help capture injured animals so they can be safely transported to the hospital. We cannot accept healthy animals that have been trapped.
|Mice, rats or rodents|
There are several native rodent species in California. These include deer mice, harvest mice, voles, and dusky-footed woodrats (also called packrats). They are not usually found inside homes or other buildings, but may be found near dwellings. These species are a natural part of the California landscape. Rodents are nocturnal, and the mother is usually with the young during the day.
The mice and rats most commonly encountered are invasive, non-native species like house mice, Norway rats, and black rats (also called roof rats). These species are frequently found both inside and outside homes. They cause millions of dollars in damage to property each year, can cause food poisoning, and can spread diseases like typhus, leptospirosis, and plague. Lindsay Wildlife Hospital cannot accept non-native species.
Infant mice or rats found alone: If you find a nest, leave it undisturbed to let the mother return to her babies. If she doesn’t return within a few hours, or if you find a baby mouse or rat away from its nest, it can be hard to tell if it is a native species or a non-native. The best way to tell which is which is by emailing the hospital a picture of the animal and a brief description of the circumstances in which it was found: email@example.com. If hospital staff still cannot determine the species, you may be asked to bring it in for identification.
Unwanted rodents in homes: If there are problems with non-native rats and mice inside a house, snap traps are the most humane method of removal. Traps left outside can unintentionally kill or injure children, cats, birds, dogs, squirrels, or other animals. Avoid leaving food out that rodents can find. Check your foundations and walls for holes that rodents can use to enter a building, and block them with metal sheeting or hardware cloth. Animals caught in glue traps die very slowly and are not considered humane. Glue traps also catch many non-target species like birds, lizards, baby opossums, and rabbits—this is especially true if they are used outdoors. Poison also kills many unintended animals—predators like hawks and owls will eat poisoned rats and mice and then they become poisoned.
Native rabbits and hares in this area include brush rabbit, desert cottontail, and black-tailed hare (jackrabbit). Domestic pet rabbits are sometimes found in the wild because they escaped from their owners or were released. They should not be in the wild.
Young rabbit or hare alone: Hares normally leave their young in the open and feed them only twice a day. Hare babies are born with fur and with eyes open. Each baby will be left in a different place. Rabbits are born in a nest, naked, and with eyes closed. Keep dogs, cats, and people away from baby rabbits and hares. If you are sure a young rabbit has been abandoned or is injured, bring it to the hospital as soon as possible. Place it in a secure container and keep it warm, dark, and quiet. Do not give it food or water.
Injured rabbit or hare: Place it in a cardboard box or paper bag and keep it warm, dark, and quiet. Do not give it food or water. Bring it to the hospital as soon as possible.
Skunks are nocturnal and need a quiet, dark place during the daytime. Their homes are usually in burrows, but they will also nest under houses, decks, woodpiles, etc. They are attracted by pet food, ripe fruit, water, snails, and insects. They can uproot gardens and lawns when searching for food. Their nesting season is usually April through June. The common skunk in this area is the striped skunk, about the size of a house cat.
Injured or orphaned skunk: Lindsay Wildlife Rehabilitation Hospital does not rehabilitate skunks because of the risk of rabies. Call animal services (in Contra Costa County, call (925) 335-8300) for pick up. Skunks in our area may carry rabies. Do not attempt to capture or feed any skunks.
The two squirrel species commonly found in this area are the Eastern Fox Squirrel and the California Ground Squirrel. Both species are active during daylight hours, especially early in the morning and in late afternoon.
Fox Squirrels are large tree squirrels with bodies ideally adapted for life high above the ground. They usually build large, leafy nests in tree branches, but will also nest in tree cavities, attics, or other enclosed areas. Females generally have litters of 2-6 young twice a year, from February–May and again in July–September. Newborn babies are blind, hairless, and very tiny—about the size of a human thumb. They nurse for 9–10 weeks and become independent at 12 weeks of age.
California Ground Squirrels live in burrows beneath the ground, either singly or as part of a colony. They spend much of their time underground, where they rest, rear young, eat stored food, and escape danger. The tiny, hairless, and helpless young are born in litters of 5–8 in March and April.
Young squirrels found alone: Young Fox Squirrels are orphaned when trees are trimmed, nests are blown down, they fall from the nest, or the mother is killed. Because they are completely dependent on their mothers for many weeks, once on the ground, they will not survive long due to loss of body heat, dehydration, and predation. Ground Squirrel juveniles can become lost when they emerge from their burrows to begin exploring. Like tree squirrels, infants are helpless without their mothers, and are in imminent danger unless rescued.
If you find a baby squirrel alone, here’s the best way to help:
1. Look for more babies—they are seldom born singly, so there may be more nearby, hiding under leaves or debris. Step carefully and search the area several feet around, and listen for high-pitched cries.
2. Bring them inside and keep them warm. Gently pick up babies and place them in a small, secure box with a soft, clean cloth on the bottom and another cloth to snuggle under. If there is nesting material, collect some in a sealed plastic bag. Call our hotline for advice right away. You may be asked to bring babies and nesting material to the wildlife hospital. At the wildlife hospital, give as much history as possible, including whether there was any possible contact with dogs or cats.
3. Keep them safe overnight if necessary—if the wildlife hospital is closed, or there will be a delay, bring them inside to keep warm and secure in a safe area, away from pets and children. If you have a heating pad, set it to LOW and place it under half the box. They have special diets and can easily choke on fluids, so there is no need to give them any food or water.
4. Will their mother take them back? Mothers will take their babies back, but they may be frightened away by noise and activity in the area. Plus, sometimes the babies are sick or injured. Please call our hotline for advice. When brought to the wildlife hospital, they will be examined and treated by our medical staff. If they are healthy, a member of the specially trained Squirrel Reunite Team may contact you to discuss the possibility of attempting to reunite them with their mothers.
Nest cut down by tree trimming: Bring the nest with the babies to the wildlife hospital where they will be examined and treated. If they are healthy and conditions favorable, our Squirrel Reunite Team may contact you to discuss the possibility of a reunite attempt. It’s best to avoid tree trimming until the last 3 months of the year.
Squirrels in the attic: Noises in your attic after dark is more likely to be rats or mice rather than squirrels. However, on occasion, mother squirrels do nest in attics where construction gaps allow access. It is illegal to disturb, trap, or remove nesting squirrels, and if a mother is scared away, the youngsters will starve without her. Wait until the young have grown and moved out, then seal up all attic access points.
Attacked by cat or dog: Any contact or suspected contact with dogs or cats is serious; squirrels should be brought to the wildlife hospital as soon as possible, even if there are no apparent injuries. Dog bites generally cause crushing injuries, and cat bites create deep puncture wounds that are not always visible through the fur.
Hit by car: Being hit by a car is usually fatal, but some squirrels will survive. If you find a squirrel still alive, carefully place it in a secure container and bring it to the wildlife hospital as soon as possible. Be very careful and always wear leather gloves; squirrel teeth are sharp and they have a powerful bite.
Squirrel losing hair: A squirrel with widespread hair loss is likely suffering from sarcoptic mange. An adult squirrel can survive mange if its immune system is good enough, so often it’s best to wait and watch. Young squirrels or juveniles with immature immune systems may need treatment. Please contact our hotline for more information.
Ducklings in the pool: Provide a ramp for them to leave the water. Keeping the mother and babies together, encourage them to leave by shooing them out. Leave a gate open. Do not attempt to pick up the ducklings for relocation—mom will fly away, often abandoning her young. Do not put food out for them; that will make them stay.
Ducklings in storm drain: Contact the city, county, or appropriate water company. They have access to tools needed to remove the grate. Fashion a pole with a net to scoop out the babies. When the rescue is complete, release the babies away from the drain.
Duck or goose with wings sticking out to side: Ducks or geese (usually domestic) can have a metabolic bone disease caused by improper diet while young. There is no cure. If they are in an area with adequate food and are not in danger, leave them alone. If they are in danger or are otherwise injured or ill, call animal services (in Contra Costa County, call (925) 335-8300) for pick up.
|Raptors or Owls|
Raptors are predatory birds that catch and kill their prey with talons. They include eagles, hawks, owls, falcons, osprey, kites, and harriers. Turkey vultures are not raptors. They are related to condors and storks, and scavenge for food with their sensitive sense of smell. Because of their size, treat turkey vultures like a raptor.
Injured raptor or turkey vulture: Place a large towel or sheet over the bird and gently place it in a secure container, such as a cardboard box with a lid. Use caution, as raptors have very sharp talons and a powerful grip—wear heavy leather gloves . If you are not comfortable handling the bird, contact animal control (in Contra Costa County, call (925) 335-8300) and ask them to pick it up. They will then transport the bird to the hospital.
Young raptor or turkey vulture on the ground: There are many different reasons a young raptor might be on the ground. Many young birds can climb trees and reunite with their parents. Parents may also feed the youngsters while they are on the ground. If the bird is alert and has no obvious sign of injury or trauma, and is in a safe environment, leave it alone. Check the bird a few hours later (or the next day) for signs of parental care. If the bird appears unhealthy, or is in an unsafe environment, call the hospital at (925) 935-1978 for advice BEFORE picking up the bird. Please do not give food or water to any injured or orphaned animals.
Nest on ground: If you find a nest on the ground, tie or wire it back into a nearby tree. It doesn’t need to be exactly where it was, as long as it is within sight of the original location, and the parents can see and hear the babies. To make it easier to secure, you can put the nest in a little margarine tub or plastic box (with drainage holes in the bottom). Watch from a distance to make sure a parent returns to the nest.
Hatchlings and nestlings on ground: These birds are early in development and may have no feathers. If possible, locate the nest, gently pick up the baby, and place it in the nest. Make sure the other babies in the nest look like the one you are replacing. Watch from a distance to confirm that the parent bird returns to the nest, which could take several hours. Don’t worry about your scent on the bird; the mother will not reject the baby.
If the baby bird is injured, or you can’t find or reach the nest, bring it to the wildlife hospital as quickly as possible. During transport, keep the baby warm, dark, and quiet. Baby birds have very specific diets, and getting the wrong diet can make them sick, so there is no need to give them food or water before bringing them in.
Fledgling bird on ground: Fledglings will often jump out of the nest when they can only hop and flutter on the ground or from branch to branch. This is a natural part of the process of learning to fly. The parents continue to feed and watch over the fledglings. Keep cats and dogs indoors for the few days it takes the youngster to master flight. Watch from a distance—if no parent comes to feed the fledgling for several hours, or it appears injured, it can be brought to the wildlife hospital. The parents come and go very quickly, and you may not see them feeding the baby. Feel free to call the wildlife hospital for advice if you are unsure about what to do.
Bird caught by cat: Cat attack is very stressful to birds and the injuries can be severe. Place the bird in a small container that can be securely closed (like a shoebox with a lid, or a grocery bag secured with a clothes pin), and bring it to the wildlife hospital as soon as possible. Keep them warm, dark, and quiet. These birds have special diets and extra handling increases their stress, so there is no need to give them food or water.
Bird hit window: A bird hitting a window may suffer brain injury, eye abrasions, or broken bones. If the bird doesn’t fly off after a few minutes, place it in a small container that can be securely closed (like a shoebox with a lid, or a grocery bag secured with a clothes pin), and bring it to the wildlife hospital as soon as possible. Keep it warm, dark, and quiet. These birds have special diets and extra handling increases their stress, so there is no need to give them food or water.
Birds hit windows because the reflections look like open space, or they can see through to a window on the opposite wall. Hanging plants, bright ribbons, or streamers in front of the window helps reduce collisions. If the birds can see through to another window, close the curtains.
Sick birds at feeder: Bird feeders concentrate large numbers of birds in one location. Infectious illness can then move quickly through the flock. If you see sick birds at your feeder, remove all feeders and bird baths from the yard. Thoroughly clean the area under the feeder. You may want to check if your neighbors also have feeders and bird baths. Keep feeders down 2 weeks. This allows birds to disperse, so healthy birds won’t be in contact with sick birds. Wash the feeder with soap and water, then soak in a 10% bleach solution for 10-20 minutes. Rinse, then air dry. Feeders and bird baths should be cleaned at least once a month. Sick birds can be brought to the wildlife hospital.
Nest in inappropriate location: Most birds and their nests are federally protected,and should be left alone until the babies have left. If at all possible, allow the babies to mature until they can fly, then remove the nest. If the nest must be moved and the babies are still present, it can be moved a short distance—watch from a distance to make sure a parent returns to the nest. If no eggs have been laid, remove all nesting materials as they are put in place; screen the area to prevent further nest-building.
Hummingbird nestlings abandoned: The mother feeds the babies often, but only takes a few seconds each time. It’s easy to miss seeing her! Make sure you watch the nest without looking away, for about an hour. If, when you look at the nest, the babies are hunkered down and silent, they are being cared for by their mother and do not need help. Only if there is truly no mother coming to the nest should the babies be brought to the wildlife hospital.
The Bay Area is home to many different species of snakes, including the gopher snake, kingsnake, and rattlesnake. The only venomous snake in the Bay Area is the Western Rattlesnake; all other snakes are harmless. Snakes are beneficial because they eat many animals we consider pests, such as mice and rats. Do not attempt to handle rattlesnakes.
Baby snake: Snakes can care for themselves from birth; probably not necessary to help them.
Snake caught in bird netting: Do not attempt to remove the netting yourself—you will likely injure the snake’s skin. If it is not a rattlesnake, cut the netting about a foot from the snake, and bring the entire mass to the hospital. If it is a rattlesnake caught in netting, call animal control (in Contra Costa County, call (925) 335-8300).
Injured snake: Place in a secure container and bring to the hospital as quickly as possible.
Snake caught on sticky trap: Do not attempt to remove the snake from the trap. Bring the snake (still stuck to the trap) to the wildlife hospital as quickly as possible.