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Community Voices by Joy Joyner: There are times when good intentions for wild animals need to be set aside

Published in the September 28 – October 11, 2016 issue of Morgan Hill Life

By Joy Joyner

Photo courtesy WERC Joy Joyner, president of the Wildlife Education and Rehabilitation Center Board of Directors, and Luna.

Photo courtesy WERC
Joy Joyner, president of the Wildlife Education and Rehabilitation Center Board of Directors, and Luna.

It’s a common occurrence for any of us who spend time out in nature here in the South Valley. Maybe you’re gardening, when suddenly you spot a baby bird hopping around on the ground and looking awkward. Or you’re out on a hike when you spot a tiny bobcat kitten wandering around with no adult in sight.

You may think that the ending of summer brings to an end the need to worry about wild babies. But that’s not always the case. While our smaller songbirds, such as hummingbirds and gold finches, have fledged and flown off on their own, larger wild babies are just now making their way out in to the world.

Just a couple of weeks ago, great egrets fledged from their nest tree, or rookery, near the Paradise Valley neighborhood in Morgan Hill. All of these lanky fledglings except one flew out in to the wild areas with no problem. A fledgling landed in a nearby neighborhood and began “hanging out” near some homes.

A concerned resident contacted a Wildlife Education & Rehabilitation Center volunteer for advice. Luckily, this wayward egret was in the neighborhood near the home of a staff member who quickly went to assess the situation. This was an example of “when to watch.” The young egret, having just left the nest, was spending time getting its bearings by walking around the neighborhood. The egret was seen roosting in a nearby tree the following morning. Later that morning, the egret flew off and left the neighborhood.

In mid-June of this year, a kitten was found wandering a construction site in Los Gatos. The workers, thinking it was a stray domestic kitten, took it to San Jose Animal Services, where it was discovered to be a bobcat kitten. Attempts were made with no success to reunite the baby with its wild mom.

This baby, named “Gato,” is now at WERC receiving specialized care from our Bobcat Moms. This was an example of when wild babies need help. This baby was in a dangerous location, where it was not normal for this baby to be, with no mother in sight.

There are many times when good intentions and good hearts take over, and humans “rescue” an animal that does not need to be rescued. More than 75 percent of the wild baby animals rescued by well-intentioned people really do not need assistance. Baby birds in the late spring and early summer are often the victims of over rescuing — aka, “birdnapping.”

Here are some tips on how you can tell if that little bird needs your help:

“Nestling”: (a featherless or barely feathered bird). If found out of its nest, put it back if possible. Otherwise, place it in a covered container and keep it warm, then call WERC or your nearest licensed wildlife rehabilitation.

“Fledgling”: (a young bird with feathers, short tail). If found on the ground, leave it alone unless it’s injured. The parents will take care of it until it’s ready to be on its own. If there are cats around, remove the cats or move the bird to within a 20-foot radius of where it was originally found.

Please remember: do not raise baby birds or mammals by yourself. Do not give food or water. Wild babies need a special diet and an inappropriate one can kill them. Pet food is not intended for wildlife.

Wild babies in WERC’s care require specialized diets and veterinary care, which are costly. Our biggest fundraiser of the year is fast approaching — Wildlife Fest Oct. 15. For information visit www.werc-ca.org.

Joy Joyner is president of the board for WERC. She wrote this column for Morgan Hill Life. She can be reached by emailing her at joy.joyner@gmail.com.