What do you do when you see a wild animal in need? In Southern California, there are several wildlife rescues, marine care networks, and raptor centers to help, depending on where you live and what type of animal you find.
Often run by volunteers, these organizations respond to calls of wounded animals, nursing them back to health, and ideally releasing them back into the wild.
South Bay Wildlife Rehab (SBWR) in Rancho Palos Verdes, which specializes in birds and bats, has taken in more than 300 birds this year, and is currently bulging at the seams with 111 patients.
“We have 18 White-throated Swifts, 20 Red-tailed Hawks, six Red-shouldered Hawks, 41 Cooper’s Hawks, nine American Kestrels, four Barn Owls, and 13 Great Horned Owls,” says SBWR Director Ann Lynch. They also have some bats and hummingbirds.
The organization launched in 1993, but has never had a permanent location. Instead, Lynch and several volunteers work out of their homes, where they’ve built everything from small hummingbird enclosures to huge flight cages for bats and birds of prey.
Since most of the birds are orphans and didn’t learn to hunt from their parents, Lynch says they must graduate from “Mouse School” before getting released to the wild.
“We put live mice and rats [in horse troughs] and the birds can hunt, so that gives them the opportunity to catch and kill,” she says. They graduate and get released once they’ve been catching and eating rodents for several weeks, haven’t lost weight, and can fly well.
If you find an animal in distress, Lynch suggests calling your local wildlife care network rather than a veterinarian, which can only hold wild animals for 48 hours before needing to turn them over to a licensed wildlife rehabilitator.
“I can teach almost anyone how to get a big bird in a box with a broom,” says Lynch, who would be happy to care for your precious cargo.
Here are a few wildlife care networks in Southern California:
Animal Advocates Wildlife Rehabilitation in LA
International Bird Rescue in San Pedro
Marine Animal Rescue in El Segundo
Wetlands & Wildlife Care Center in Huntington Beach
California Wildlife Center in Calabasas
Wildlife Care of Southern California in Simi Valley
Squirrelmender Wildlife Rehabilitation in Thousand Oaks
Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network in Goleta
Ojai Raptor Center in Ojai