Best Safe Haven for Injured Critters

For most of us, finding an injured wild animal means a shoebox, some old towels, and digging a hole in the backyard. That was just the outcome I was anticipating the evening I found an injured hummingbird lying on the sidewalk. Her wings sure as hell still worked, but she seemed like a drunk trying to pass a sobriety test. Her every attempt to get off the ground ended with her flat on her face. I named her Tipsy, fell in love, and panicked.

A frantic search on the Internet brought me to the Web page of the California Wildlife Center, an oasis for injured critters and the clueless humans who stumble upon them. The site had specific instructions for how to handle a variety of injured creatures, including my dizzy hummingbird. Better still, it had the number for a hot line, where I could blubber hysterically to a patient, reassuring volunteer. She talked me through how to keep Tipsy alive through the night. Then she gave me driving directions to the center’s hospital for injured wildlife.

I never would have found it without directions. Located deep in the Santa Monica Mountains, in a seemingly small building, the California Wildlife Center somehow treats more than 2,000 animals a year. Not just birds, but squirrels, possums, rabbits, and species that don’t fit in a shoebox, such as deer, coyotes, bobcats and seals. In addition to rescue, the CWC works with schools, homeowners associations and other community groups to educate the public about how to coexist with wildlife. It’s a busy place.

The staff member who examined Tipsy was immediately able to identify her species, gender, and give an educated guess as to the nature of her injuries. She assured me that the center’s goal is always to rehabilitate and release the animals back into the wild. What she didn’t mention was that the CWC is funded wholly by donations and staffed almost entirely by volunteers, that the need sometimes outweighs the capacity, that coughing up a contribution was the least I could do. But I didn’t. I still feel like an ass about it. Don’t make the same mistake — give what you can. Every little bit helps.

California Wildlife Center (818) 222-2658 or; emergency hotline (310) 458-WILD

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