The ART of saving wildlife

Santa Barbara News-Press

Those wild neighbors and the art of animal rescue

Ted Adams

December 18, 2010

I have been living in the chaparral above San Marcos Pass for more than 45 years and have had many occasions to meet, interact with and learn from the true native residents who have a claim to the land that I can never deny. They are the wildlife that live here. Their ancestors have been here since the last ice age and before.
We need to remember that no matter where we live, this is someone else’s home as well. The animals aren’t coming down out of the mountains to find food. They went to the wildlands to escape what we were doing to their homes of thousands of years. Some of them return.
Considering that I arrived and elbowed myself into their lives, I feel they have been quite welcoming. Since my cabin was fairly porous for many years, the smaller guys came and went pretty much as they pleased and I learned to coexist with most of them. The tree frogs come in during the summer to live in the potted plants. The lizards keep the fly population under control and I’ve never seen a cockroach in my kitchen. I encounter lizards on patrol under the sink and behind the stove from time to time.
About 20 years ago, I had four large lazy Labs that lounged around the house and I noticed that there was an unmistakable odor of skunk that was becoming more obvious as time passed. I figured the dogs were learning some lessons themselves about the neighbors until one evening I went into the kitchen and when I turned on the light there were four spotted skunks, Mom and Dad and two kits helping me with my garbage accumulation problem.
Spotted skunks are among the cutest of the animals that live with us, they only weigh about 2 pounds when full grown and they are quite docile unless provoked. I explained to them that this was unacceptable behavior and opened the door to the outside and with the help of a straw broom I nudged them outside. They were surprisingly compliant.
I had enough previous experience with their kind to know what to look for if they felt the need to retaliate. They pound on the ground with their front paws and look assertive. If they feel more threatened, they will drop down on their elbows. When that happens seek refuge for they are about to stand up on their front legs and flip their tail forward over their head and let fly their argument with surprising accuracy. Not long before I had been the recipient of such a barrage which struck me in the eye and the episode was vividly etched in my mind.
In the last couple of weeks on “Community Alert,” Mike Williams and I have had the pleasure of interviewing two dedicated and compassionate women who fill different and related positions dealing with the native mammal species that share our neighborhoods. This article and my following one will touch on their programs.
Julia Di Sieno is cofounder and executive director of Animal Rescue Team Inc., a nonprofit organization that rescues, treats and rehabilitates injured native wildlife. Based in the Santa Ynez Valley, they serve the Tri-Counties 24 hours a day with a focus on large mammals, but no animals, birds or reptiles are turned away. Julia’s close to being licensed to rehab bobcats and mountain lions and she already has the facilities to accommodate them.
This organization is doing great, innovative things to assist our wild animals in need. All ART rescues are treated by veterinarians Dr. Sheri MacVeigh and Dr. Leticia Obledo of Solvang Veterinary Hospital, 2025 Mission Drive, Solvang. The number is 688-6484.
Animal Rescue Team is the only animal rescue facility on the Central Coast equipped with an animal ambulance. This allows injured animals to be treated more rapidly and often at the scene of their injury, which prevents the trauma of transportation while untreated. A large number of the animals ART treats have traumas inflicted by automobiles, and the largest portion of these are deer.
Many fawns are raised and released after losing their mothers to automobiles. Fawns are often found alone, because they do not flee from danger until about 14 days of age, and they do not forage with their mother until they are older. To escape detection a fawn lies motionless in tall grass or other cover. Its spotted coat helps it blend into its surroundings by imitating dappled sun on vegetation. A fawn’s lack of scent also helps to protect it from detection by predators.
Sometimes fawns end up in strange places, such as in window wells or on sunny porch steps. If you find a fawn by itself do not move it unless it is in harm’s way. If the fawn must be moved, try to find cover nearby so that the doe can find the fawn when she returns to nurse it. Does typically nurse their fawns at dawn and dusk. Does in suburban areas are familiar with human smells, and they will not abandon a fawn that has been touched by a human.
The condition of an orphaned fawn will deteriorate quickly if it is not nursing. If you are sure that the fawn is orphaned, or if it is injured, call a wildlife rehabilitator. Fawns require special care. Do not feed the fawn or attempt to care for it yourself. It is illegal to keep a fawn unless you have a permit.
Taking a fawn from its natural habitat and teaching it to associate food with humans is doing the fawn a disservice. Once the fawn matures, it will be too large to stay in a house or garage. These deer are often released in a natural area once they are grown, but they are likely to suffer an early death. Human habituated deer may also pose a danger to pets and people, especially during deer mating season.
To report an animal in need or to volunteer or make a tax deductible donation to Animal Rescue Team, call 896-1859 or go to
Ted Adams is co-host with Michael S. Williams of “Community Alert, Not If, But When, Positive Preparation for Disaster” on KZSB AM 1290, 11 a.m. and 9 p.m. Tuesdays and 1 p.m. Saturdays. “Community Alert” is part of Aware & Prepare, A Community Partnership to Strengthen Emergency & Disaster Readiness. He is the vice president and Public Information Officer of the Wildland Residents Association, Inc., San Marcos Pass Volunteer Fire Department. Any opinions are his and not necessarily those of the News-Press.

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