Living with California Wildlife

Found an animal that needs help? Looking for information about coexisting with urban wildlife? Need to find a rescue organization or re-home an exotic pet? This is your comprehensive guide for living with wildlife in the East Bay.

Tips

Living with Local Wildlife »

Found an Animal?

Do not automatically pick it up, first, determine whether or not the animal is actually in need of help. Please click one of the links below to determine the best course of action. Oakland Zoo does not take sick or injured wildlife, but there are many reputable resources in the Bay Area who can help.

Mammals »

Birds »

Reptiles and Amphibians »

Rehabilitation Centers »

Other Resources »

Living with Local Wildlife

Around the House

Conflict with between humans and wildlife can often be resolved by simply preventing your home from becoming inviting for wild animals! Here are some tips from Conservation Society of California and our partners. Discouraging small animals like opossums, raccoons, skunks, and foxes can be as simple as:

  • Making sure your garbage and recycling cans have secure lids
  • Do not leave pet food outside overnight
  • Hang wild bird feeders out of reach of any animals that may live near your home
  • Close up openings under your house and porches (do this at night AFTER the animal has left to go foraging to prevent trapping them!)
  • Motion sensor activated security lights will also discourage animals from hanging around your home.

In Rural Areas

If you live in or have a vacation home in a rural area, you may need to take some additional steps to the ones listed above. For example, if you only use your home part-time:

  • Remove all food (including teas and spices) between visits. Bears can smell food through walls and will work hard to gain access to it.
  • Replace single pane windows with double pane windows.
  • Outer doors should be made of solid wood or metal and have sturdy deadbolts installed.
  • Consider installing electric fencing around the home, especially if you are not there full time.
  • Never leave food in your car.
  • Keep pets and small children inside at night and provide sturdy, covered shelters for farm animals.
  • Do not feed deer, raccoons, squirrels or other wild animals.
  • Install fences of at least 8 feet to keep gardens and deer-attractive plants safe.
  • Encouraging wildlife such as deer, raccoons, and opossums to enter your yard provides a food source for mountain lions, coyotes, and bobcats. This encourages them to hang around your house, putting your family and pets in danger.

Mammals

Sick or Injured Mammals

Sometime animals will look sick, injured or abandoned, but really are just using their natural defense mechanisms or are just waiting for a parent to return. For example, opossums are famous for playing dead and can lay motionless for up to an hour. Do not disturb an opossum that suddenly appears dead after being startled. Instead, leave it alone and check again after 1-2 hours.

Similarly, many baby mammals such as deer and rabbits may be left alone for several hours while the mother is off feeding. This is normal, natural behavior and the baby animals will remain in place and quietly discreet until the mother returns. The best course of action is to leave it alone and check back after 4-6 hours. Keep in mind that many mothers will NOT return to the den if they see people or pets nearby. You need to leave the immediate area and remain out of sight.

An animal that is truly in need of help will exhibit signs of illness or injury such as shivering, vomiting, bleeding, or if you know it was attacked by another animal or hit by a car.

Opossum »

Raccoon »

Mole or Gopher »

Squirrel »

Bat »

Fox or Coyote »

Deer »

Marine Mammal »

Deceased Wild Animal »

Download a handy guide to caring for found baby mammals here.

Opossum

Opossums are famous for playing dead, and can lay motionless for up to an hour. This is a natural defense mechanism and completely normal. Do not disturb an opossum who suddenly appears to be dead after being startled. Keep pets away from the opossum and leave it alone and check back after 1-2 hours.

Call a Wildlife Rehabilitation Center near you.

Raccoon

Do not handle raccoons.

Mole or Gopher

Baby moles or gophers are hairless and blind. They should not be found outside of the underground nest. If you cannot locate the tunnel, take it to a wildlife rehabilitation center.

Adult gophers and moles can be injured easily by lawn mowers and weed whackers. Bring injured adults to a wildlife rehabilitation center.

Squirrel

Baby Squirrel

There are 2 species of squirrels in the Bay Area, fox squirrels nest in trees and ground squirrels who nest underground. In either case, a baby squirrel who is alone on the ground probably needs help. First, search for the nest. Look for more babies by carefully walking a few feet around the area and listening for high pitched cries. If possible, place the baby back into the nest, back away and observe from a distance to see if the mother returns.

If are unable to locate the nest, bring the infant to a wildlife rehabilitation center.

  • If you have a nest of squirrels in your attic or trees that contains babies, you must wait until the babies have left the nest before boarding up the space or trimming the tree. It is illegal to disturb nesting squirrels. If a nest of squirrels is accidentally dislodged, bring the entire nest to a wildlife rehabilitation center.
  • Adult squirrels can be injured, by attacks from dogs and cats, or being hit by cars. If you find an injured squirrel bring it to a wildlife rehabilitation center.
Adult Squirrel

If an adult squirrel is missing large patches of hair, but its behavior is normal, it is probably suffering from sarcoptic mange. Most healthy adult squirrels can fight off this infection naturally so it is best to watch the squirrel for a few weeks. If you are unsure, call a wildlife rehabilitation center for advice before intervening.

If Transporting is Necessary

If you must bring the animal into a hospital:

  • Make sure to wear leather or gardening gloves
  • Place the animal in a secure container such as a pet carrier or a cardboard box with a lid.
  • Cover the container with a towel or sheet to keep the area warm, dark and quiet.
  • Keep away from pets
  • DO NOT let the animal out of the carrier.
  • DO NOT give the animal food or water.
  • DO NOT pet or handle the animal.
  • Keep small children and pets away from the animal.
  • Make sure to wash your hands after handling the animal and wash anything that the animal was in contact with to prevent the spread of parasites or diseases.
  • I Found a Baby Mammal, Now What?

Bat

What to do if you find an injured bat:

  • If a bat is on the ground it is injured or sick.
  • DO NOT touch sick or injured bats.
  • Call a wildlife rehabilitation center or call your local animal control center.

If you must bring the bat to a wildlife rehabilitation center:

  • DO NOT touch the bat with your bare hands
  • Cover the bat with a jar or a can and gently slide a piece of cardboard under the bat.
  • Place a secure lid on the container.

Fox or Coyote

What to do if you find an injured adult fox or coyote:

  • DO NOT handle or feed the animal.
  • Call animal control to pick it up.

What to do if you find an injured baby fox or coyote:

  • Call a wildlife rehabilitation center.
  • If you must transport the animal to a nearby hospital, make sure to wear gloves.
  • Place the animal into a secure container such as a pet carrier.
  • DO NOT give it any food or water or touch it with your bare hands.
  • DO NOT take selfies.

Deer

Fawns

What to do if you find a baby deer left alone: The mother is most likely out feeding and will be gone for several hours. If you want you can keep back from a far distance and watch for the mother to return.

What to do if you see an injured fawn: Call a wildlife rehabilitation center or call animal services to pick it up.

If you must bring the fawn to a wildlife hospital: Keep as quiet as you can and touch the fawn as little as possible.

  • Fawns are terrified of people.
  • DO NOT offer them food or water.
  • AVOID skin contact with deer. They eat poison oak which leaves poison oak oil on their bodies.
  • They also may have ticks. Be careful because deer have sharp hooves and can cause an injury when they kick.
Adults

What to do if I find an injured adult deer?

Adult deer cannot be treated. They cannot handle the stress. Most injuries can heal on their own. It is best to leave them alone and stay as far away as possible. If you see that the deer has a broken bone you can call animal control.

Marine Mammal

What to do if I find an injured marine mammal:

  • Marine mammals include seals, sea lions, sea otters, and dolphins.
  • DO NOT touch, feed, or pick up the animal. These animals are easily stressed and can bite.
  • DO NOT take selfies with the animal
  • Call the Marine Mammal Center: 415-289-7325

Birds

Songbirds »

Raptors, Owls, and Vultures »

Water Birds »

Download a handy guide to caring for found baby birds here.

Songbirds

It is very common for fledglings (baby birds with early feathers) to be found on the ground near the nest.Hopping out of the nest is a natural part of learning to fly.The parents will continue to feed and care for the fledgling during this time. Keep dogs and cats away from the fledgling, and observe from a distance.If the parents continue to visit the baby, it is best to leave it alone. If the parents do not return within several hours or if the bird appears injured, call a wildlife rehabilitator for advice.

Hatchlings (baby birds without feathers) may need some assistance to return to the nest. Try to locate the nest and replace the hatchling, be sure that the other babies in the nest match the one you are replacing! If you cannot find the nest, make one from a small carton or plastic box filled with grass and place it in a safe location near where the hatchling was found. Observe from a distance for a few hours to be sure that the parents return to the nest. If the new nest is within eye and ear shot of the old one, the parents should be able to locate it. Do not worry about your scent on the hatchling, the mother will not reject the baby.

Domestic cats often attack song birds which can be very stressful and injuries can be severe. Place the injured bird into a secure, covered container such as a shoe box and keep it warm, quiet, and dark. Do NOT offer food or water to the injured bird. It needs immediate medical care and a full stomach can cause complications. Get the bird to a wildlife rehabilitator as soon as possible.

Birds commonly hit windows of buildings because the reflections from the windows look like open space. Birds who have flown into windows may receive severe injuries to their eyes or brain and can suffer from broken bones. Place the injured bird into a secure, covered container such as a shoe box and keep it warm, quiet, and dark. Do NOT offer food or water to the injured bird. It needs immediate medical care and a full stomach can cause complications. Get the bird to a wildlife rehabilitator as soon as possible. For tips on preventing window strikes, visit Golden Gate Audubon Society.

What Do I Do if I Find a Baby Song Bird?

Songbird is a broad classification of perching birds and the most common type of bird found in inland locations around the Bay Area. They include jays, mockingbirds, sparrows, finches, robins, and blackbirds just to name a few.

What to do if a baby song bird is on the ground?

Keep the bird safe by preventing pets and children from approaching the bird.

Is the bird a nestling or a fledgling?

Nestlings will have only fluffy down, without flight feathers (long feathers on the wings and tail). Nestlings need help!

  • Try to locate the nest and replace the baby.
  • If there are other baby birds in the nest, be sure that they resemble the one you are replacing.
  • Do not worry about your scent on the bird, the mother will not reject it.
  • If you cannot locate the original nest, create one using a berry basket, margarine tub etc lined with natural substrate such as dry grass or pine needles.
  • Hang or place it in a tree as close to the original location as possible.
  • If it is within sight/sound range of the original location, the parents should be able to find it and will continue to care for it.

Fledglings are baby birds who have fully or nearly fully developed flight feathers. Hopping on the ground is a normal part of the learning process for fledglings and the parents will continue to care for it even when it is on the ground. Observe from a distance and keep children and pets away from the bird.

What if I Find an Injured Songbird?

  • Place the bird in a secure container such as a pet carrier or a cardboard box with a lid.
  • Cover the container with a towel or sheet to keep the area warm, dark and quiet.
  • Keep away from pets
  • DO NOT let the bird out of the carrier.
  • DO NOT give the bird food or water.
  • DO NOT pet or handle the bird.
  • Keep small children and pets away from the bird.
  • Get the bird to a wildlife rehabilitation center as soon as possible.

Raptors, Owls, and Vultures

Like other birds, it is very common for young raptor fledglings to be on the ground. Many can hop from perch to perch or climb back up to their nests. Often the parents will feed and care for the fledgling while it is on the ground. Keep dogs and cats away from the fledgling, and observe from a distance. If the parents continue to visit the baby, it is best to leave it alone.If the parents do not return within several hours or if the bird appears injured, call a wildlife rehabilitator for advice.

If you find an injured raptor or vulture, you may need to transport it to a wildlife rehabilitator. Raptors and owls have very sharp, very strong talons. Wear heavy leather gloves. Place a sheet or towel over the bird and gently place it in a secure container for transport. Keep the container warm, dark and quiet. Do not offer the bird any food or water. Get the bird to a rehabilitation center as soon as possible.

I Found a Baby Raptor

Nestling and fledgling raptors often are able to hop or climb back into their nests and parents will continue to care for them while they are on the ground.

  • If the bird appears healthy and uninjured, it is best to observe from a distance and allow the parents to care of it.
  • Keep pets and small children away from the bird.
  • If the baby bird appears injured or the area is not safe, call a wildlife rehabilitation center for advice.

I Found an Injured Raptor

  • Wear leather gloves, even baby raptors have very sharp talons
  • Place a large sheet or towel over the bird and gently place it in a secure container such as a pet carrier or cardboard box with a lid.
  • Cover the container with a towel or sheet to keep the area warm, dark and quiet.
  • Keep away from pets
  • DO NOT let the bird out of the carrier.
  • DO NOT give the bird food or water.
  • DO NOT pet or handle the bird.
  • Keep small children and pets away from the bird.
  • Get the bird to a wildlife rehabilitation center as soon as possible.

Water Birds (such as ducks, herons, pelicans, gulls)

It is very common to see aquatic birds on the ground, so signs of illness or injury may look different from other birds. Most birds are able to heal and adapt to minor injuries, but water birds are particularly susceptible to certain types of injuries such as becoming trapped in fishing lines or netting, or injuries from fishing hooks. Fishing hook and line injuries are most common in crowded piers. To avoid hooking a bird, try to spread out away from other anglers. If you are on a boat, move away from other boats.

If you see a potentially injured bird that you are unsure of, slowly approach. If you are able to get within about 10 feet without it flying away, it probably needs help. If the bird is a duck or goose that is regularly fed by humans in a park, the approach distance technique is not applicable. In this case, notify the authorities within the park.

I Found an Injured Water Bird

Place a large sheet or towel over the bird and gently place it in a secure container such as a pet carrier or cardboard box with a lid. Cover the container with a towel or sheet to keep the area warm, dark and quiet.

  • Keep away from pets
  • DO NOT let the bird out of the carrier.
  • DO NOT give the bird food or water.
  • DO NOT pet or handle the bird.
  • Keep small children and pets away from the bird.

I Hooked a Water Bird! What Do I Do?

From time to time, anglers will accidentally hook a pelican or other water bird, don’t panic.

  • DO NOT cut the line and release the bird.
  • If possible get someone to help you, wear sunglasses to protect your eyes and gloves to protect your hands
  • Gently, slowly, and evenly reel in the bird.
  • Grasp the bird firmly, fold the wings in and cover the birds head with a towel or jacket.
  • Hold the beak or bill firmly and slightly open to allow the bird to breathe
  • Always remove the hook by cutting the barb.
  • Push the barb slowly forward and cut it with wire cutters.
  • Back the rest of the hook back out.
  • Before releasing the bird, check it over for fishing line or other hook and remove anything that could cause further injury.
  • If the bird has swallowed the hook or any fishing line it should be taken to a rehabilitation center
  • If the bird is otherwise uninjured, release it by pointing its head away from you and towards the water and step away quickly.

Reptiles and Amphibians

Sick or Injured Reptile or Amphibian

The only venomous reptile living in the Bay Area is the Western Rattlesnake which is easily identifiable by the rattles at the tip of the tail. Never attempt to handle a rattlesnake. If you find one that is injured, contact animal control.

Most reptiles and amphibians display little to no maternal care. Infants are born or hatched fully prepared to care for themselves. The best thing for infant reptiles is to leave them alone in their natural habitat. If you find a healthy, uninjured animal crossing a busy road or pathway, you can help by simply moving the animal out of the path or road in the same direction they were heading.

I Found an Injured Turtle/Tortoise

The most common problem encountered is turtles on the road. If a turtle is attempting to cross a busy road or path, help them out by simply moving them off the road in the direction in which they were heading. Turtles are often hit by cars while crossing roads and it can be difficult to tell if a turtle is gravely injured, or dead (even for experts). However, even dead female turtles may have eggs inside them which can be saved. It's best to take any injured turtle to a wildlife rehabilitation center.

Turtles and tortoises are often injured by curious pet dogs. Small chips in a turtle or tortoise shell will heal on their own, but if a puncture is deep or close to the spine, take them to a wildlife rehabilitation center.

If You Must Transport the Turtle/Tortoise to a Wildlife Hospital

  • Wear latex gloves or make sure you wash your hands very well after handling the animal.
  • Never transport a turtle in water, instead line a box or pet carrier with a damp towel.
  • Gently pick up the turtle by supporting the lower shell and keeping fingers away from the turtle’s head. Most turtles and tortoises will retreat into their shells, but a scared or injured turtle may try to bite.
  • Cover the container with a towel or sheet to keep the area cool, dark and quiet.
  • Keep away from pets
  • DO NOT let the animal out of the carrier.
  • DO NOT give the animal food or water.
  • DO NOT pet or handle the animal.
  • Keep small children and pets away from the animal.
  • Get to a wildlife rehabilitation center as soon as possible.

I Found an Injured Snake or Lizard

Snakes and lizards can be injured by cars, or attacked by pets. Injured snakes will have an obvious wound or may be unable to move part of its body (for example, the front half may move, but the rear appears limp).

  • Try to gently scoop the snake or lizard into a container with a tight-fitting lid. Be sure to poke air holes in the container.
  • Another option is to scoop the animal into a pillow case and knot the open end.
  • Although most snakes rarely bite, it may try to do so if the snake is scared and injured. Rather than picking the snake up with your hand, try gently sliding the snake into the container or pillowcase using a stick or other object.
  • It is not necessary to try to feed the snake or lizard or offer water, and it is best not to try to treat any injury you might observe.
  • If you find a snake or lizard trapped in bird netting or sticky traps, do not attempt to remove them yourself.
  • Place the animal in a secure container, trap and all, and get them to a rehabilitation center as soon as possible.

I Found an Injured Frog or Salamander

Amphibian skin is very sensitive and delicate. Avoid touching the amphibian with bare hands. Amphibian skin is sensitive to drying out. The best way to transport an amphibian is in a container with a moistened towel placed on the bottom. Be sure to cover the top of the container.

If you cannot transport the frog or salamander to a wildlife hospital immediately or if the clinic is not open, keep the frog, toad, or salamander in a warm, quiet place in the covered container until you are able to bring it to the clinic. It is not necessary to try to feed the frog, toad, or salamander, and it is best not to try to treat any injury you might observe.

Looking to Re-Home a Pet Reptile or Amphibian?

Resources

Bay Area Amphibian and Reptile Society »

  • Palo Alto Junior Museum, 1451 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, CA 94301

Creepy Critters Rescue »

Wildlife Rehabilitation Centers

What Centers Do

A wildlife rehabilitation center takes care of injured wild animals and then releases the animal back to the wild. Most rehabilitation centers are run by volunteers and do not have the staffing to respond to calls requiring pick up. You may be asked to transport the animal yourself to their veterinary or rehabilitation center.

Mammals, Birds, Reptiles, and Amphibians

Lindsay Wildlife Museum, Walnut Creek

1931 First Avenue, Walnut Creek, CA 94597

Phone: (925) 935-1978

  • Wildlife native to California only, will not take pigeons or skunks
  • Hospital hours: September–March: 9 a.m.–5 p.m., April–August: 9 a.m.–7 p.m.

Ohlone Humane Society, Fremont

37175 Hickory Street, Newark, CA 94560

Phone: (510) 797-9449

  • Wildlife native to California
  • Open April–September only

Sulphur Creek Nature Center, Hayward

1801 D Street, Hayward, CA 94541

(510) 881-6747

  • Wildlife native to California only
  • Hospital hours: 10am-4:30pm

Mammals Only

Yggdrasil Urban Wildlife Rescue, San Francisco

Phone: (510) 421-9897

  • Only takes infant mammals
  • Drop off locations vary, please call ahead.

Mammals and Birds

Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley

3027 Penitencia Creek Road, San Jose, CA 95132

Phone: (408) 929-9453 (929-WILD)

  • Takes Native California Wildlife
  • Center Hours 9am-5pm, 7days/week

Birds Only

Bird Rescue Center, Santa Rosa

3430 Chanate Road, Santa Rosa CA 95404
Phone: (707) 523-2473

  • Takes all Native Wild Birds
  • Center hours 9am-5pm 7 days/week

International Bird Rescue

4369 Cordelia Road, Fairfield, California 94534

Phone: (707) 207-0380 Extension 110

  • Takes aquatic birds
  • Center hours 8am-5pm

Mammals, Reptiles, and Amphibians

Wildcare, San Rafael

76 Albert Park Ln., San Rafael, CA 94901

Wildlife hotline: (415) 456-7283

Wildlife emergencies after 5:00pm: (415) 300-6359

  • Takes all wildlife, all ages
  • Center hours: 9am-5pm

Looking to Re-Home a Pet Reptile or Amphibian?

Bay Area Amphibian and Reptile Society »

  • Palo Alto Junior Museum, 1451 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, CA 94301

Creepy Critters Rescue »

Other Resources

Keep Me Wild Campaign Materials

Bear brochure »

Deer brochure »

Mountain lion brochure »

Information from Oakland Zoo's Partners

Bear League »

Mountain Lion Foundation »

Project Coyote »

California Department of Fish and Wildlife

California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s mission is “to manage California's diverse fish, wildlife, and plant resources, and the habitats upon which they depend, for their ecological values and for their use and enjoyment by the public.” This includes working to prevent illegal poaching, giving out fishing and hunting licenses, monitoring and protecting waterways and public lands from invasive species, and prosecuting polluters.

CDFW also works with researchers and biologists to monitor the health of various populations of our native flora and fauna and makes recovery plans for endangered species. Fish and wildlife is NOT a rehabilitation center and does not take injured or orphaned wildlife, though their website lists potential rehabilitation centers by county if a referral is needed.

CDFW does not remove small animals such as raccoons, opossums, or fox from your property. Contact a pest control company for removal of backyard wildlife. This agency is considered a branch of law enforcement whose focus is on fish, wildlife, and plants.If you suspect someone is illegally taking or mishandling wildlife in state or national parks or forests, please report the actions and specific location along with a description of the person(s) to CDFW at 1-888-334-2258.

Animal Control or Animal Services

Oversees pet licensing, lost and found pets, or removal of dead animals from the side of the road. This is also the agency you contact to report animal bites, sick or injured stray animals, or suspected animal abuse. Some centers may provide low-cost services such as spay/neuter, vaccinations, and microchipping.

Alameda County

Oakland Animal Services

1101 29th Avenue, Oakland, CA 94601

Phone: (510) 535-5602

East County Animal Shelter

4595 Gleason Drive, Dublin, CA 94568

Phone: (925) 803-7040

Alameda Animal Shelter

1590 Fortmann Way, Alameda, CA 94501

Phone: (510) 337-8565

Contra Costa County

Martinez Animal Services

4800 Imhoff Place, Martinez, CA 94553

Phone: (925) 608-8400

Pinole Animal Services

910 San Pablo Ave. Pinole, CA 94564

Phone: (925) 608-8400

Marin County

Novato Branch

171 Bel Marin Keys Blvd., Novato 94949

Phone: (415) 506-6225

Kitty Corner Adoption Center

876 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., San Anselmo, 94960

Phone: (415) 747-8322

San Francisco County

San Francisco Animal Care & Control

1200 15th Street, San Francisco, CA 94103

Phone: (415) 554-6364

Assistance for Companion Animals and Ferals

Fix Our Ferals

12226 San Pablo Avenue, Richmond, CA 94805 Phone: (510) 215-9300 After hours emergencies: (510) 548-6684

  • Provides low cost spay/neuter and vaccination services for dogs and cats.
  • Financial assistance may be available
  • Spay/neuter services available Sunday, Monday, Thursday, Friday
  • Spay/neuter drop off: 7:30am-8:30am
  • Spay/neuter pick up: 5:30pm-6pm

Spay Neuter Impact Program

Martinez Animal Services

4800 Imhoff Place, Martinez, CA 94553

Phone: (925) 608-8400

  • Provides low cost spay/neuter and vaccination services for dogs and cats on specific event days several times each year
  • Must register 4 weeks in advance, check website for upcoming spay/neuter event days