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Rehabilitation Process

We appreciate it when members of the public take the time to bring us an animal in need. During our busy season, we might not be able to answer questions at our front desk, so the following explains how wildlife is treated while in our care.

Learn more about the costs of caring for wildlife.

What happens when I bring in an animal?

The animal is immediately taken from the reception area to an examination room. You will be asked to remain in the lobby to complete documentation about where and when the animal was found and any prior care given. These details will greatly assist us in our assessment and care of the animal.

What happens next?

Unless there are severe injuries requiring immediate treatment, we will allow an animal to de-stress for a period of time prior to conducting a full examination. This increases its chance of survival. To reduce stress, human contact must be kept to a minimum.

Initial Analysis

Physical exam to assess the patient
Many conditions are not immediately recognizable, so a complete exam is conducted. We look for:

Signs of shock

Emaciation

Infections

Wounds

Metabolic Bone Disease (occurs in wild animals fed an improper diet)

Dehydration

Fractures

Signs of parasites

Neurological damage

Immediate Treatment
This can include:

Fluids (for dehydration)

Tube feeding (for emaciation)

Stopping bleeding

Suturing (stitches)

Stabilization of a fracture

Medications (antibiotics for infections, steroids for
inflammation)

Follow-up care: The results of the initial analysis determine the appropriate protocol

Immediate release
Although unusual, some animals can be released within twenty-four hours after observation and/or minor treatments.

Short-term care
Animals needing short-term care may have minor injuries or infections or need medications. They are housed at either the Wildlife Center or home-care volunteer sites for several days or weeks prior to release.

Long-term care
Easily-stressed species needing greater isolation or animals needing care extending beyond our daily operating hours are placed with home-care volunteers. All other animals are cared for at the Center.

Can I watch this process?

We operate under state and federal permits and must adhere to strict requirements pertaining to interaction between members of the public and the wildlife in our care. For these reasons, we are not able to allow members of the public into the examination and treatment areas of the Center.

What situations require long-term care?

  • Orphans. Many babies are brought in that have been separated from their parents. These young animals must go through their growth cycle until they are old enough to care for themselves.
  • Serious injuries or infections. Some compound fractures or complicated systemic infections require a lengthy healing process.
  • Severe emaciation. Often, animals brought in to the Center have been unable to obtain food for themselves due to injuries. They may need attention not only for immediate injuries, but also long-term care to allow themselves to be re-nourished.

What steps are taken to release an animal?

Prior to release, each animal is assessed to ensure its ability to survive in the wild. The animal must be in good physical condition and possess skills necessary for survival. For example, squirrels must be able to crack nuts and build nests.

All animals are released in their appropriate habitat, which meets the conditions required for that species. In accordance with Fish and Game laws, mammals must be released within three miles of where they were found.

What happens to animals that can’t be released?

Unfortunately, we are not able to save every animal that comes to us. Some animals are so badly injured that their eventual recovery and release into the wild is not possible. These animals are humanely euthanized. If this is the fate of the animal you brought in, please do not think your efforts were in vain. Your care has allowed an animal to have a quick and painless end, rather than prolonged suffering.

How can I find out what happened to the animal I brought in?

You will be given the identification number of your animal. If you would like to check on it, please wait a week to call so that we can better assess its condition and chances for a successful rehabilitation and release. Thank you again for bringing the animal to us. You’ve played an important role in the rehabilitation process.

Why can’t I do this at home?

It’s in the animal’s best interest to be cared for by a licensed wildlife rehabilitator for many reasons:

  • Specialized diets. Nutritional requirements vary by species and age, and by the physical condition of the animal.
  • Environment and housing. To reduce stress and promote healthy development, animals must be kept in a quiet location in enclosures designed for their specific activity needs.
  • Socialization and education. Young animals that are raised with their own kind learn how to interact with other members of their species and develop essential life skills.
  • Imprinting. Animals that bond with their caretakers lose their natural fear of humans, putting them at risk in the wild.
  • Medical issues. Licensed facilities have access to the equipment, supplies, and medications necessary to diagnose and treat a variety of medical conditions. In addition, some wild animals can be host to organisms causing diseases such as aspergillosis, lyme disease, salmonellosis, and hantavirus that can be transmitted to humans.

For these reasons and others, it is illegal for the public to care for wild animals or to keep them as pets. The WCSV is licensed to care for wildlife through the California Department of Fish & Game and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services.

There are many other ways you can help local wildlife, including making a financial donation, volunteering your time, and becoming a member of the WCSV. Learn more.