In general the less intervention that is done with mammals, the better. Left alone, mammal mothers will retrieve and take care of their babies. Exceptions to this would be when the baby is too cold, sick or injured for the mother to care for; when the mother has been trapped or killed; or when human intervention has so terrified the mother that she has abandoned the nest. If you are not sure the mother is gone, wait and see if the mother returns to reclaim the babies.

Most incidents occur when humans disturb a nest. Raccoons like to nest in chimneys, attics and crawl spaces, while squirrels prefer attics and skunks under decks. The species specific sections below contain information that describes instances when babies should be rescued and when they should be returned to the nest.

Rescue Phone Numbers in Southern California

Badgers: Simi Valley: 805-428-7105
Bats: Poway Wildlife Center: 858-705-4949
Thousand Oaks: 805-374-9027
Beached Seals: Malibu: 818-222-2658
Bobcats: Simi Valley: 805-428-7105
Coyotes: Malibu: 818-222-2658
Simi Valley: 805-428-7105
Opossums: Burbank: Leslie Rink - 818-209-2880
Malibu: 310-480-1760 / 818-222-2658
Thousand Oaks: 805-374-9027
Rabbits: Camarillo: 805-482-4127 / 805-815-7787
Thousand Oaks: 805-338-0481
Raccoons: Camarillo: 805-482-4127
Simi Valley: 805- 428-7105
Thousand Oaks: 805-374-9027
Skunks: Camarillo: 805-482-4127
Malibu: 818-222-2658 / 310-480-1760
Simi Valley: 805-428-7105
Squirrels: Burbank: Leslie Rink - 818-209-2880
Malibu: 818-480-1760
Thousand Oaks: 805-338-0481

Breeding: Variable throughout spring, summer and fall; up to 13 babies

Active: Nighttime; year-round

Diet: Carrion, insects, fruit, garden crops, small mammals

Additional Information: Opossums are transient rather than territorial. They carry their babies with them when they go out or move on. Only when the babies get older might a mother leave the babies behind while she searches for food. Opossums are timid and not aggressive, but if cornered or afraid they can give a painful bite. They have more teeth than any other mammal.

Handling Baby & Adult Opossum:

  • If a mother opossum is killed, she should be checked for babies in her pouch or clinging
    to her. These must be referred immediately to a rehabilitator.
  • Baby opossum must be kept warm, they cannot thermoregulate at this age. Fill a ziplock bag with warm to hot water and wrap in a soft cloth place in the bottom of a small box and line with another soft cloth place the babies on top of the warm bag and lightly cover.
  • Mothers do not retrieve their babies. If the opossum is less than 7 inches long, not including the tail, it must be taken to a rehabilitator. However, any opossum that is 10 inches or longer, healthy and uninjured can be left alone. Place it under a shrub away from cats and dogs, preferably after dark.
  • Injured adults should be placed in a box or cat carrier by moving or guiding with a big towel and garden gloves, broom, shovel, or other instrument and transported to a rehabilitator.

Breeding: 3 - 9 pups in March/April

Active: Nighttime or daytime; year-round; may venture close to houses

Diet: Rodents, birds, small mammals, fruits, insects

There is a healthy looking fox cub in my yard. Does it need to be rescued?

  • Unless you know for sure that the mother has been killed or disappeared, it is better to observe the situation.
  • Foxes have more than one den site and often move the cubs around. Foxes are very sensitive to scent. If a cub becomes separated from the adult, the adult will return to retrieve it if it does not have human scent on it, and humans are not close by.
  • Leave the cub alone to give the mother a chance to retrieve it undisturbed. Use gloves if the cub must be moved out of harms way. Return periodically to assess the situation. If the mother has not retrieved the cub in two hours, refer to a rehabilitator.

How should I capture a sick adult fox?
The public should not handle adult foxes. They can be dangerous and can carry numerous parasites and diseases. Contact a rehabilitator directly if the fox is acting in an unusual manner. Foxes are susceptible to mange, the skin mite condition which also effect dogs. Symptoms are sometimes confused with rabies. The fox will be miserable and itching, may have patchy fur, and may be starving to death or acting unusual. Mange is treatable with regular care.

Breeding: 2 litters during January & February; 2 - 6 litters during July & August

Active: Year-round

Diet: Nuts, fruit; flying squirrels also eat bird eggs and insects

Predominent Species: Gray & Fox Squirrels

Additional Information: Squirrels tend to build nests in attics, tree trunks, or leaf nests in trees. Generally
they build two or three nests so that they can move their babies if the nest is threatened, or the nest becomes infested with fleas. The mother will move the babies to a new nest at around six weeks of age.

Young male squirrels tend to change territories in the fall, and are frequently not "car savvy".

Additional Questions:

Q: There is a squirrel in my house! How do I get it out?
A: The squirrel does not want to be in your house and will panic. Try to confine it to a room with an exit (window, door, etc.) to the outside and it will find its way out. If it has come from the attic and returns there, determine whether there have been recent repairs to the house which have sealed off its normal access route to the outside.There may also be babies in the attic if it is baby season. The squirrel must be given
an avenue of escape and a way to remove its babies.

Q: I am sure a squirrel is trapped. How can I get it out?
A: Sometimes animals get caught in chimneys and must be rescued. If a squirrel is trapped in a wall, down a vent, or in the chimney, provide a means for the animal to climb out. Lower a weighted, double strand of rope into the enclosure, making sure the length is adequate to reach the animal. For lesser heights, a rope made out of panty hose will also work. If the squirrel can come out of the bottom, through the fireplace, close off the room, open a door or window to the outside, and retreat to allow the squirrel to exit. If the room does not open to the outside, a pillowcase can be used to capture the squirrel in and take it outside. If none of these optionsdoes not work, refer to a rehabilitator for advice.

Q: The squirrel has a large growth or abscess. What can I do?
A: Warbles (booly larvae) look like large growths; they are actually eggs laid under the skin. The squirrel will look horrible but act fine. Leave it alone. The worm will exit after it hatches and does no damage to the squirrel. Trying to remove the warble can actually harm the squirrel; if the warble is punctured, toxins will enter the squirrel's system.

Q: I found a baby on the ground that looks too young to be on its own. How can I help?
A: If the squirrel is furred, has a tail that curves up (looks like a real squirrel tail) and it can sit up and walk, leave it alone unless it approaches you for help. These squirrels are making learning excursions from the nest, but are still under a parent's care. Sometimes babies fall/are blown out of nests, or are dropped as the mother is moving her nest, or a whole nest is blown down during high winds. The mother will generally come back and check to make sure she has all the babies, however she may miss some and leave them behind. A mother squirrel will not retrieve a baby that is very cold or injured. If the weather is cold, and the baby is also cold and lying flat and not moving, or the baby is not furred or is very small, refer to a rehabilitator.

Q: A young squirrel ran up to me. What does that mean?
A: A juvenile squirrel will seek human help when it has been prematurely separated from its family or something has happened to the mother and is not yet old enough to find food on its own. If possible, it should be returned to its family. If the location of the family is unknown, refer to a rehabilitator.

Q: There is an injured adult squirrel. What should I do?
A: Squirrels are difficult to catch. If they are trapped they can die of shock or injure themselves in panic. It is important to determine whether it is a female with babies. Unless the injury is very severe, it is better not to attempt to catch an injured squirrel. If they are caught, they must be handled with thick gloves.You can attempt to pick it up but must be very careful not to be bitten. You can also cover the squirrel with a box to protect it and keep it from moving and call animal control to pick it up. Animal control will euthanize it if the
injuries are very severe (back or spine), or will take it to a rehabilitator.

Breeding: Litters in April/May, again in Fall; 2-6 young per litter; mother nurses young for 6 - 12 months

Active: Nighttime; will sometimes hunt for foodor sun themselves in daytime; year-round

Diet: Rodents, fruits, insects, garden crops, garbage, cat and dog food, eggs

There is a healthy looking cub in my yard. Does it need to be rescued? 

Breeding: Litters in April/May, again in Fall; 2-6 young per litter; mother nurses young for 6 - 12 months

Active: Nighttime; will sometimes hunt for foodor sun themselves in daytime; year-round

Diet: Rodents, fruits, insects, garden crops, garbage, cat and dog food, eggs

Human/Raccoon Conflict Issues
In general, people tend to be on one side of the fence or the other in their attitudes toward raccoons. Problems occur when half the people in a neighborhood are feeding raccoons for the pleasure of seeing them up close, while the other neighbors are trapping the animals and calling pest control companies to eliminate or relocate them. Relocation of wildlife is not a solution and illegal in some cities.The animals relocated will most likely die in their attempts to reestablish a territory in their search for food, water and shelter. This is especially true if it is a mother with babies if she is too stressed she will just abandon the babies. It is never a good idea to feed raccoons that wonder into our yards as they are very adept and capable at finding their own food.

By our offering them artificial food we are desensitizing them to humans. We are conditioning them that we are a food source and that there is nothing to fear. When this artificial supply of food disappears they become destructive in their search for more.

Reuniting Raccoon Families
In the event that young raccoons have been found without their mother, every possible attempt should be made to reunite the healthy young with their healthy mother. Raccoons are very attached to their young and have good memories; they will return to the place where they were separated for several nights in an attempt to find them.

They recognize their babies' voices and scent, and will not be put off by the smell of the humans' touch. If the babies have been without food for an extended period of time, they will need supportive care and probablymedical treatment. Once stabilized, however, they may be able to be reunited with their mother. The babies can be left in a cardboard box or partially opened kennel, with a heat source if necessary, in a protected area where the mother will be most likely to look for them. The box or kennel should be placed in the area after dark, and left there untouched until right before dawn. Unless they are cold or hungry, the babies are not likely to crawl away from a secure warm nest. After dawn the rescuer should check the box, and if the babies are still there, take them back into rehab for a day of feeding and care until the following night, when the procedure should be repeated.
If after three nights it becomes much less likely that the mother will return. At this point, the animals should be considered orphaned and a rehabilitation specialist should be contacted.

There is a healthy looking cub in my yard. Does it need to be rescued? 
Unless there are indications the mother has been killed, trapped, or the baby is injured ,babies should
be left in the area where found so the mother can retrieve after dark. Raccoon mothers are extremely attentive and will come back for their young. If necessary, move them out of harms way for the duration of the daylight hours and return them where they were found that evening after dark.

Raccoons are nesting in my attic! What do I do?
Most animals only use our homes temporarily to raise young during the March-August baby season, so if at all possible, consider cohabitating until young leave the nest (6-8 weeks). If that is not possible refer to Nuisance Wildlife on the Rescue Information page to learn how to safely get Mom to relocate her babies on her own. Trapping the mother and then relocating with the babies is not advisable as it causes a lot of stress on the mother and she may kill the babies or abandon them when relocated. Wild animals typically have many denning sites within their territory and will relocate their own families if given the chance. Refer to a licensed rehabilitator in your area if in doubt or in need of assisatnce.

Breeding: 4-6 young in April/June

Active: Nighttime; year-round

Diet: Rodents, insects, small reptiles, eggs, fruit, birds

Skunk Behavior

  • Skunks are generally nocturnal and begin foraging at sunset.
  • Skunks are omnivorous and help keep the rodent rodent population in check.
  • Skunks have very poor eye sight.
  • They often travel five to ten miles within their territory at night looking for field mice and other small rodents as well as lizards, frogs, birds, eggs, garbage, acorns, and fallen fruit. They also dig for insects, especially beetles, larvae, and earthworms.
  • Their diet also includes black widow spiders and scorpions.
  • Being carrion eaters, they help keep roadways and neighborhoods clean.
  • An estimated 70 percent of a skunk's diet consists of insects considered harmful to humans.
  • Skunks rarely attack unless cornered or defending their young. If approached by an intruder and unable to flee, a skunk will usually fluff its fur, shake its tail, stamp the ground with its front feet, growl, stand on its hind legs, turn its head and spit to scare the potential attacker. If those techniques do not work, it will lift up its tail and spray.
  • An individual's territory may span 30 to 40 acres. In the wild, skunks tend to den in shallow burrows or hollow logs.
  • They are hardly ever found more than two miles from a water source.
  • In urban territories, skunks den beneath buildings, decks, dumps, and woodpiles.

I found a baby skunk. What do I do?

  • If you are aware of the mother and family being in the area and see babies playing out in the daylight hours this is normal they most likely have a den close by. Leave the skunk alone.
  • If you can smell skunk and the babies seem agitated and defensive something may have happened to the mother.
  • One baby by himself has probably been separated and needs to be taken inside.
  • Move very slowly and the skunk will not feel threatened ,they only spray as a last
  • If you can contain them safely, do so and call a rehabilitator.
  • Skunks can carry rabies, do not handle with out gloves.

Injured Adult Skunks
Moving slowly toward the animal (keeping in mind that they have very poor eye sight) place a towel gently over the animal and then a laundry basket or something similar and weigh it down with a brick or rock and call a rehabilitator.

Note: Animal Control Agencies Policy is to euthanize all skunks because of the potential for rabies

Breeding: Late winter; average of 4 pups born in early April

Active: Nighttime; year-round

Diet: Small mammals, birds, snakes, lizards, insects, carrion, garbage, house pets, fruits, vegetables

Coyote Behavior

  • Breeding occurs in late winter an average of four pups are born in early April.
  • Litter size can be affected by population density and food availability.
  • The female coyote digs her own den under an uprooted tree, log, or thicket; may use a cave,
    vacant building,hollow log, or storm drain; or take over and enlarge another mammal's burrow.
  • The den will have an entrance 1 to 2 feet across, be dug 5 to 15 feet long, and terminate in an enlarged nesting chamber.
  • Coyotes usually have several dens and move from one to the other, minimizing the risk that a den containing young will be detected. These moves also help to prevent an accumulation of fleas and other parasites, as well as urine, droppings, and food refuse.
  • Coyotes use the same dens yearly or make new dens in the same area.
  • A mated pair of coyotes will live, hunt, and raise pups together for many years, sometimes for life.

If you have coyotes denning on your property wait until the pups are old enough to disperse on their own and by implementing aversive methods you can take proactive measures to ensure they do not return. The more noise and activity around a den site and once the female knows the den has been discovered she will move the pups on her own. Keep small pets inside.

Additional information topics described below.

Lone Coyote Pups
Protecting Your Pet
Preventative Barriers
Coyotes and People
Coyotes and Livestock
Feeding Behavior and Communication
Predators and Disease

Breeding: 1 litter of 1 - 6 kittens born April/May; possible second litter as late as September

Active: Nighttime; year-round

Diet: Rabbits, hares, insects, rodents, deer

Recognizing a Bobcat

  • Bobcats are elusive and nocturnal, so they are rarely spotted by humans. Although they are
    seldom seen, they roam throughout much of North America and adapt well to such diverse
    habitats as forests, swamps, deserts, and even adapting well to suburban areas.
  • Bobcats, are roughly twice as big as the average house cat and can range anywhere from 13 - 30 pounds. They have long legs, large paws, and tufted ears. Most bobcats are brown or brownish red with a white underbelly and short, black-tipped tail with white. The cat is named for its tail,
    which appears to be cut or "bobbed."
  • Fierce hunters, bobcats can kill prey much bigger than themselves, but usually eat rabbits, birds, mice, squirrels, and other smaller game. The bobcat hunts by stealth, but delivers a deathblow with a leaping pounce that can cover 10 feet (3 meters).
  • Mating season is late winter, but throughout the year is possible.
  • Bobcats are solitary animals. Females may have several dens, one main den and several auxiliary dens, in her territory. usually a cave or rock shelter, but can be a hollow log, fallen tree, or some other protected place. In suburbia this can include under house decking and unused buildings.
  • A litter of one to six young kittens, which will remain with their mother for 9 to 12 months. During this time they will learn to hunt before setting out on their own. When they are between 8-11 months the kittens are evicted from their mother's territory.

I found a bobcat kitten. What do I do?

  • Bobcats have more than one den site and often move the cubs around.
  • If a cub becomes separated from the adult, the adult will return to get it the following evening as long as humans are not close.
  • Unless you know for sure that the mother has been killed or disappeared, and the cub is not injured it is better to observe the situation. Leave the cub alone to give the mother a chance to retrieve it
  • Use gloves if the cub must be moved out of harms way or it is a heavily traveled area during the day and return the cub after dark. Return in the morning to assess the situation.
  • If the mother has not retrieved the cub, refer to a rehabilitator.

I found an injured adult bobcat. What do I do?

  • If the Bobcat does not retreat when you approach and you know that he is injured .Do
    not attempt to capture.
  • If down or sick they will be very aggressive.
  • Just leave the area as quiet as you can and keep an eye as to his location, your discovery of him may be enough for him to change locations.
  • Call Animal Control to capture and also make contact with a local rehabilitation facility to follow up with Animal Control.
  • Even confronted with diminishing prey, a healthy bobcat seldom attacks a human. If they are sick or injured they will however frequent backyards seeking out easy prey, such as chicken coops.

Breeding: 1 - 3 fawns in May/June

Active: Daytime or nighttime; year-round

Diet: Fruit trees, grasses, acorns, garden crops

Additional Information: Deer spend their entire lives in a fairly small area; relocation of deer herds is not an option.

I saw a fawn alone. Does it need help?

  • Fawns are left alone for long periods of time, especially during the day. The mother is nearby and will return every 4-6 hours to nurse, but will not return if there are humans around.
  • The fawn is usually carefully positioned so that its protective coloring camouflages it, and unlike an adult deer it has almost no scent to attract predators. Human intervention could draw predator attentionon.
  • Do not disturb the fawn unless there is evidence that the doe has been killed (dead doe by side of road, fawn nearby).
  • When the fawn is separated from the doe because of some disturbance, the doe will find the fawn through verbal communication.
  • If you are sure the doe has not been there in twelve hours, or the fawn appears weak and generally ill refer to a rehabilitator.
  • Other reasons to rescue a fawn is if the fawn is exhibiting some sort of unusual behavior such as, following someone around, or begging, has a visible injury, or has closed or swollen eyes (they are born with eyes open). If in doubt, consult with a wildlife rehabilitator in your area.

Deer are running into traffic
This generally happens in fall, during mating season. There is little that can be done.

Deer on median strip
If the deer is trapped and/or is causing a traffic hazard, call the police.

Injured adult deer
Rehabilitators cannot go out and catch or trap adult deer that appear in distress. Even injured deer can outrun the pursuer. It takes special equipment. Adult deer can be dangerous to deal with, and the public must not attempt a rescue. If the deer is actually down, contact the local animal control/game warden. If the deer is not down, there is nothing that can be done.

Breeding: Red bats; 3 - 4 young/year; other species one young April - July

Active: Nighttime; hibernate in winter

Diet: Insects

Special Instructions:
If a bat is found inside a house and the outside temperature is less than thirty degress, a rehabilitator should be contacted about possibly overwintering the bat.

Are bats dangerous?

  • Although a small percentage of bats can carry rabies, healthy bats will not attack you, and if you stand still they will not fly into you.
  • Bats do a great service by eating insects (diving for insects is often mistaken for an attack on a human).
  • One bat can eat up to 3000 mosquitoes in one night.
  • They are gentle creatures; never needlessly destroy.
  • Bats do not show rabies symptoms, so it is important never to handle bats without gloves or a towel.
  • Anytime someone has been in a room with a bat and there is the possibility of a bite that was not noticed notify animal control to capture and test the bat. If the bat cannot be capture and tested, or tests positive for rabies, contact your public health officer immediately.

There's a bat in my attic/house. What do I do?

  • Occasionally, bats are found behind house shutters when these are moved for painting or repair. These bats should be left alone until just around sunset, when the shutters can be taken down after they leave. If the shutter is left down, the bat will seek an alternate roosting site.
  • If the bat is inside the house, close off doors to stairwells or other rooms to confine the bat(s) to a single room. Turn out all lights including aquarium lights, lights on VCRs, microwaves, etc. Open any windows and doors to the outside and leave the room. They will leave on their own at dusk. If you do not want them to return, you will need to close any holes to the outside that are more than 2 inch in diameter, or any cracks of 1/4 x 1 2 inches.
  • Bats can enter through open doors and windows, chimneys, or loose fitting screens on windows or doors. However, before closing up the area, make sure that there are no bats trapped inside, particularly flightless young. Bats are unable to fly for the first 3 weeks after birth. All young bats usually fly by mid August.

The bat won't leave or can't fly. How do I get it?

  • If the bat is found on the ground or on the floor in a house, or appears to be injured, or cannot fly, or it is a baby, refer the caller to a rehabilitator. Secure the bat with a box over it and keep children and pets away.
  • Bats cling to a wall or tree normally; they cannot take off horizontally and must be vertical to fly.
  • If an adult is clinging to a wall or curtain, it may be reluctant to fly because it is daylight, not yet awake, not warm enough, or injured.
  • Do not touch it. Place a cardboard or styrofoam box with air holes over it, or a coffee can. Slowly insert a piece of cardboard between the bat and the wall or floor. Or use a towel over it and gently roll the bat in the towel, then take it outside. Do not place it on the ground; put it high in a vertical position, if possible. If it will not fly away outside, contact a licensed rehabilitator in your area.

Breeding: 3 - 4 kits in March/April

Active: Nighttime; year-round

Diet: Twigs, bark, grasses

Additional Information:
Beavers stay with their parents up to two years and help raise the next litter. Juvenile beavers that are found alone need help. Contact your local rehabilitator.

Breeding: 2 - 3 cubs in January/February

Active: Daytime & Nighttime; active until hibernation, Oct/Nov – March/April

Diet: Omnivorous; plants, nuts, meat, carrion & insects

Additional Information:
In the mountains, California's black bears continue to be the focus of many complaints. Black bear inhabit the Sierra from the high mountain meadows down to the foothills and oak woodlands. And in Southern California in the after math of recent fires,urban areas in the foothills. Residents in these areas must learn to be "bear aware", taking precautions every day to not attract bears by inadvertently providing them with artificial food sources. Black bears are curious, intelligent and solitary animals. In the wild they have an average life span of approximately 10 years but may live up to 30 years.Young (cub and yearling) may stay with their mother for up to two years. They learn from their mother how to successfully find food and survive, before they are forced to survive on their own.

Active bears spend much of their time foraging for food. Unfortunately, like humans, bears also appear to relish "unnatural" sweet or greasy foods (e.g., bacon grease, melons, candy, soda, pet food, hummingbird food, etc.). If bears sense food in human backpacks, tents, cabins, garbage cans, vehicles, etc. and subsequently obtain food from these sources, they quickly learn or become "trained" to associate the situation or an object with getting food. In the future, even if food is not present, they may try to obtain food from these sources, having learned that they sometimes contain food. It can take many attempts and negative encounters to change a bear's behavior. People living or recreating in bear habitat may face problems with "trained" bears supplementing their natural diet with food easily obtained from ice chests, trash cans, cars, cabins, chicken coops, gardens, or pet food bowls.

Bear Facts
Precautionary Measures
Bear Encounters
Excerpts taken from California DFG ,Tahoe Bear League

Breeding:Throughout the spring and summer, generally 2-6 but could be as many as ten in a litter.

Active: Most active early morning and late afternoon/evening.

Diet: Vegetation

Additional Information:
Eastern cottontails are very prone to die of stress and are terrified of humans. They are not the same species as domestic rabbits and can not breed with them. If a rabbit is found that seems very calm or friendly, it may be a domestic; refer to rehabilitator for determination.

I found a baby rabbit
If the rabbit is fully furred, the eyes are open, and the ears are up, (rabbit size of a baseball or tennis ball) the rabbit can be on its own. If necessary, put it under a bush or in tall grass, away from cats and dogs.

I don’t want to release it here because there are foxes, etc.
Rabbits are an important part of the food chain. They will not be particularly safe anywhere. Cottontails stress very easily and will die in captivity. It must be released.

I discovered a nest of rabbits (mowing the lawn, the dog dug up, etc.)
The mother rabbit leaves the nest for long periods of time, and feeds babies only twice a day, generally around dusk and dawn. Nests are rarely abandoned, but she will stay away if humans or animals are around too much.
It is important that rabbits be renested whenever possible and the mother be given a chance to tend the babies.

If the nest has been disturbed

  • Remove injured/dead rabbits. Refer injured rabbits to rehabilitator.
  • Keep dogs and cats inside until the rabbits have left the nest on their own.
  • Recover the remaining rabbits and make a teepee or crosshatch of twigs on top of the nest. Leave the nest alone and check the next morning. If the twigs have been disturbed but the nest is still covered, the mother has returned. Do not visit the nest every few hours or the mother will abandon it.
  • As prey animals, rabbits are very prone to dying quickly when frightened. Handling small rabbits can send them into shock and if placed in captivity, they can die of fright. They also have a high mortality rate in rehabilitation. Every reasonable effort should be made to allow the mother to continue to raise them.

When in doubt, contact a rehabilitator. Cases in which re-nesting may not be possible are, the nest has been very disturbed and mother will probably not return, or a dog knows the location and cannot be kept away.