The Kenwood Press
: 06/15/2013

Baby season has arrived

Sharon Ponsford

In early April orphaned baby animals started arriving at Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue. It seems that baby season gets longer every year. Most wild species have their babies in the spring and by the time the cold weather arrives, the juveniles are either off on their own or big enough to survive the winter. In recent years, we have gotten very young baby animals through September.

As of this writing, over 150 orphaned mammals have been brought to the center. The majority of them are opossums, squirrels and raccoons; but foxes, coyotes, skunks, bats, a weasel and a bobcat make up this total.

At my house, the Wildlife Nursery has been in full swing for a few weeks now with five orphaned raccoons from four different mothers in my care. I operate as a satellite branch of SCWR under their permit. The raccoons are over four weeks old and all of them have their eyes open and are beginning to move about. They are currently being fed four times a day from a bottle. They will be with me until September when they are old enough to meet all the qualifications for release. It is a big commitment, but one that I love making. I have developed a lot of respect for mother raccoons!

People often ask us where we get orphaned wildlife. The answers vary, but I believe in almost all cases, the animals have come in through some sort of interaction with humans. In the case of the babies, usually something bad has happened to their mother. Examples would be hit by car, trapped, caught by dog, caught by cat, poisoned, hit by tractor, shot, or for some unknown reason Ė probably one of the above Ė the mother has disappeared. Sometimes the babies have been inadvertently kidnapped by well-meaning people and in that case we do everything possible to reunite them with their mom. It goes without saying that she does a much better job of raising her young than we do.

Often homeowners have an animal such as a raccoon under their deck or in their attic. They donít want them there, so they will trap them and relocate them, which is strictly against the law. Sometimes they just kill the moms on the spot. Then a day or so later, they will hear the cries of baby animals and realize, too late, that was the reason the animal was under their deck. The more lucky of these babies are brought into SCWR.

When we get calls at SCWR about animals under decks or in attics during baby season, we will ask the homeowner if they can wait a few weeks. We explain that when the babies are old enough the mother will take them and move on, and then the exit space can be closed off so they canít return. Some people donít want to wait though and that can cause a lot of harm to a little wild family. Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue does offer a humane exclusion service for a very reasonable fee (scwildliferescue.org). But even when they do it, the story doesnít always have a happy ending.

Sharon Ponsford lives in Glen Ellen. A lifelong animal lover, she has worked with the Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue for almost a decade. You can contact her at sharon@kenwoodpress.com.