Unusual Baby Raccoon at WildCare

Early fall is a busy time for WildCare’s Living with Wildlife Hotline 415-456-7283, even as things SHOULD be slowing slowing down in the Wildlife Hospital.

We’ve had some indications that this fall is going to be unusual, however!

Ping-pong balls are lots of fun, and they build the dexterity these young raccoons will need to hunt
small prey once they grow up! Video by Shelly Ross

Sleepy raccoons of two shades. Photo by Shelly Ross

One of these baby raccoons is clearly unusual– this little raccoon’s leucistic coloring is caused by a genetic difference in the amount of pigment in her hair, skin and nails. This genetic difference makes her blonde, but not albino, as her eyes are the typical dark color for a raccoon.

But actually BOTH of these babies are unusual, in that they are less than 8 weeks old in early October!

Spring and summer are “Baby Season” at WildCare. We admit the majority of our baby animals between the months of April and August.

However, a look at data from the past several years has shown that young animals, even eyes-closed babies, are arriving later and later each year.

What’s causing this trend? Although we can’t say for sure, changing weather patterns are a likely culprit. Warmer late summer and fall months may give wild animals a sense of security to breed later in the season, or to breed a second time. This year’s second brood of baby squirrels was record-breaking (we still have 66 young squirrels in care as of this writing!)

These two raccoon sisters were rescued from their den under a deck when the homeowner heard them crying. Upon intake they were found to be chilled, very thin, and covered in fleas. Raccoons are excellent mothers, so something bad must have happened to their mother, leaving these babies orphaned and alone in their den.

Fortunately they were rescued, and they are now in the care of a Raccoon Foster Care expert (who provided these wonderful photos and videos). They will grow up wild together, and ultimately be released, likely in time for the New Year. Despite her different coloring, our blonde baby raccoon is perfectly healthy and she will do fine in the wild.

A carpeted cat tree makes a perfect climbing gym for baby raccoons in care! In this video, our blonde baby and her sister
are vocalizing with trills to let everyone know that they are ready for their next meal. Video by Shelly Ross

Migrating Songbirds = Typical Autumn Wildlife Intake

Western Wood Pewee. Photo by Nicole Trautsch

Western Wood Pewee. Photo by Nicole Trautsch

Songbirds are starting to migrate through our area, leading to an increase in window collisions and birds caught by cats. In a normal autumn, these birds make up a large number of our early October admissions to the Wildlife Hospital, and they require a lot of care.

This patient, a Western Wood Pewee, arrived at the Wildlife Hospital with head trauma, likely from a collision with a window.

If you hear the tell-tale thud that indicates a bird has flown into your window, always go outside and check for the injured bird, usually underneath the window he hit.

If a bird hits your window, often all he needs is a safe place to recover.

Place the bird in a shoe box (punch some holes in the lid before putting the bird in the box!), or even a paper shopping bag, and put a cloth or dish towel on the bottom to prevent the bird from slipping.

Secure the top of the box or the paper bag, and place the bird in a quiet, warm, predator-free place such as a bathroom or garage for 30 minutes to one hour. Then take the container back outside and open it. If the bird can escape and fly away, great! Congratulations on your rescue! If not, bring the bird to WildCare. Call our hotline first at 415-456-7283 to confirm hospital hours.

Traumatized songbirds that are admitted to the Wildlife Hospital are treated for shock with warmth, fluids and oxygen. When stable, patients receive a full exam to check for injuries, and they are given the appropriate diets to allow them to maintain the body weight they’ll need to migrate once they’re released. Click to donate now to help us heal the songbirds in our care!

Window strike. Photo by Brian Narelle
Mockingbird window strike. Photo by Brian Narelle

Unlike window strike birds who may recover on their own, any bird caught by a cat needs immediate medical attention, as bacteria on cats’ teeth and claws are deadly to birds, even if the injuries inflicted are small. Always bring a bird caught by a cat to WildCare for treatment with antibiotics.

Did you know that windows and domestic cats are the number one killers of songbirds?

WildCare recommends keeping cats indoors for their safety and the safety of the birds and other wildlife. For more information on keeping your cat healthy and happy indoors, click here.

Window strikes can be reduced or prevented with the following steps:

Relocate your bird feeders

Position your bird feeders, birdbaths and other attractants half a meter (1.5 feet) or less from your windows.

From this short distance, birds cannot build up enough momentum to injure themselves should they hit your window. This may seem counterintuitive, but the closer the bird feeder to your window, the better for the birds and your viewing!

Placing feeders 30 or more feet away from windows will also help, if visual alerts are applied to the window.

Birds on feeder by Eric Tymstra
Songbirds at a feeder. Photo by Eric Tymstra

Give the birds visual alerts

The key is to provide birds with the visual cues they need to alert them to the presence of glass.

Visual markers on windows are the most effective collision reduction strategy when properly applied. Unfortunately, one or two stickers on a window aren’t effective. To properly alert birds, windows must be covered with a uniform pattern four inches apart for vertical alerts, and five inches apart for horizontal alerts.

A fun option recommended by WildCare’s Birdroom Manager Lucy Stevenot is WindowAlert’s UV Liquid. If properly applied, this liquid is virtually invisible to humans from inside the building, but birds can see it. Painted-on markings must be renewed every month or two, depending on your window and weather. You can even have fun with this! You or your kids can treat it as an art project and decorate the window with the marking applicator!

Products such as Acopian BirdSavers, CollidEscape and others (see the American Bird Conservatory website for an excellent list and the Fatal Light Awareness Program (FLAP) for additional great information) also provide visual alerts to songbirds to dramatically prevent window strikes. Always hang alerts on the exterior of the windows for best results.

Another option can be viewed in this video: https://youtu.be/UC9xQkUtQ98 The suggestion is to draw white lines on the outside of the window, just a couple of inches apart. This makes sense and works because the birds see the lines as a physical barrier. Definitely worth a try!

Move houseplants

If you can see your houseplants from the outside of your home, then so can the birds. Birds perceive your houseplants as a possible perch or refuge. Moving your houseplants back from your windows lessens this attraction.

Close curtains and blinds

Close curtains and blinds to reduce the dangerous illusion of clear passage through windows, especially those that meet at corners, or where windows are situated in line with one another at the front and back of your home.Exterior window awnings can also help mute window reflection and help protect birds from the illusion of a clear passage.

Please consider these steps to make your yard safer for songbirds! So many of the injuries WildCare’s songbird patients suffer are entirely preventable. With your help, more migratory songbirds will survive their arduous migration to sing another day.