Spring has sprung along the Central Coast. Wildflowers are popping, the sun is shining and maybe you’ve seen some new critters around your neighborhood.
This is the season when many wild animals have their babies, from racoons and squirrels to crows and hummingbirds, because the days are longer and there’s more food available.
But even out in nature, accidents happen all the the time, and sometimes those animals need help.
“Baby season is the most intense time for wildlife care and that's because orphaned babies are completely helpless,” said Ariana Katovich, the development director at the Santa Barbara Wildlife Rehabilitation Network, the only wildlife rehabilitation center in Santa Barbara and Ventura. “If they’ve lost their mothers or the nest has been taken out of the tree, there’s five birds in a nest, or seven skunks in a litter, or twelve ducklings.”
Baby squirrels. Photo credit: Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network
Not only are there more animals around, but many of them need round the clock feeding.
“Baby bird food is pretty gross,” said Katovich. “It’s cat food and bugs and worms and vitamins and it all gets mixed up with yogurt. Our volunteers put it in little tiny syringes and hand feed the baby birds every 20 to 30 minutes.”
And while birds typically only eat when the sun is up, baby mammals need to be fed every two to three hours, regardless of the time of day. Some of the nonprofit’s volunteers bring the babies home with them and bottle feed chipmunks, squirrels, raccoons, and even skunks.
This baby hummingbird was the size of a penny when it was first brought in. Photo credit: Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network
So, what should you do if you see a baby animal that looks like it might be abandoned or hurt? Call the Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network, first, and explain the situation. It could be that the animal is perfectly happy and healthy right where it is -- just learning to fly or waiting while its parents are out hunting. If the wildlife specialist decides the animal needs help, the network will send someone to pick it up and bring it to the headquarters.
A baby rabbit. Photo credit: Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network