When this month’s deluge caused waters to rise all over California, human residents weren’t the only ones displaced.
During drier times, the Yolo Bypass is home to wide cross-section of wildlife. Recently, when the Sacramento Weir was opened, swelling the bypass to a vast lake, it pushed some critters out of their homes, said Karina Snapp, Animal Care Manager for the Wildlife Care Association.
Guided by instinct, wild animals are pretty savvy at the whole survival game – but some are at a disadvantage in winter months, including reptiles, which go into a state called brumation during cold weather. Brumation is a torpid state that is loosely equivalent to hibernation for mammals.
Many groggy reptiles seeking higher ground wound up on the causeway, where they were in danger of being run over. A sympathetic passer-by noticed and stopped.
“She grabbed a few that were safe to grab,” Snapp said in an email. The woman took the reptiles, a California king snake, three yellow-bellied racers and two unidentified lizards to the Wildlife Care Association, who has put them into foster care until the floodwaters recede and they can go back home.
On another recent day, 26 white-throated swifts were brought in after being knocked down by a mudslide.
“White-throated swifts are a strange bird, that need to drop a couple of feet to take off,” Snapp said. “Since they cannot take off from the ground, they are often mistaken as injured.”
Normally, the swifts only need to climb up on something to take off again. In this case, however, some of them were injured so it was a good thing they were brought in, Snapp said.
The swifts recovered (swiftly?) and were released.
The Wildlife Care Association gets these influxes of distressed wildlife from time to time after storms have passed, when people are out on their property assessing damage. Snapp offered some guidelines for people who aren’t sure whether wild animals are in need of rescue.
“Any obviously sick or injured wildlife should be rescued if safe to do so,” she said.
Signs of injury include blood; not moving, dragging limbs, walking in circles or other obvious impairments such as eyes crusted shut or missing or broken limbs.
If it’s hard to catch, it’s best to leave the animal alone.
“Many animals can survive with missing limbs or pretty severe injuries,” Snapp said, adding that if unsure, people can call the facility’s hotline for guidance.
Healthy baby animals should be left alone unless they have definitely been abandoned.
Baby birds that have fallen from nests can be safely returned; parents will not reject it due to human contact.
“If the nest is destroyed, you can usually replace it with a box or bowl,” Snapp said. “If you find a baby mammal alone, it is best to leave it alone for a couple of hours to see if the mom comes back, if safe to do so.”
The Widlife Care Center hotline is: (916) 965-WILD (9453)