Cute baby animals grow up to be big animals with very specialized needs. How simple is that? Apparently, not simple enough. How about ‘wild animals do not tame’? Still, not simple enough… There are, unfortunately, a lot of selfish and willfully ignorant people out there who mess with wild animals, especially wild animal babies, and end up ruining the animal’s chance at a proper, normal life in the wild. Some folk are ignorant, some just don’t care. Trying to make a wild animal a pet is just plain mean, and in California, it’s illegal too.
Of course, accidents happen. Cars hit animals. A tree is knocked down with a nest in it. A pet dog or cat gets into a wild animal nest/burrow and kills the parent critters, leaving orphans, etc. so some people take in animals for good reasons, not selfishness, but it’s still illegal for non-certified Californians to keep wild animals as pets, and it’s not something that is good for the animal either, unless the rescuer knows what they are doing so the animal can be rehabilitated and returned to the wild… which is why we were happy to be able to get our little sparrow turned over to the pros asap. We looked online and found the Critter Creek Wildlife Station, which is a shelter and rehabilitation center for injured, orphaned, and confiscated wildlife.
We arranged to bring our sparrow to them as they have volunteers who take care of and release found songbirds. It is not a zoo, but because Honor has a strong interest in animals, we asked if we might tour the shelter. They were located up in the foothills and they are a non-profit, volunteer run center that manages to do a whole heck of a lot with very little. They are supposed to be funded by the state agencies that turn over confiscated animals, but I’m sure you can imagine how little that amounts to in reality! They rely on donations, memberships, hard work and creative thinking, for example, there were wild grape vines growing around the property.. not just for decoration, but to feed the raccoons. Poultry farm castoffs provide meat for their raptors – to an extent that they’d be unable to function without it.
You can check out their website to Meet the Animals, but here are a few that we met. We could not (for the animals safety) go near the mammal babies, and certain tarped cages or bird cages were ‘quiet zones’. When we went to deliver the baby sparrow, we all piled into my father-in-law’s truck and made it a family outing with grandparents.
The first critters we met were dogs. They have five dogs on the property and we were greeted enthusiastically.
Next we met Shasta, a mountain lion. They cannot be rehabilitated in California, so he will have to remain in a cage for life. He has a very nice, large cage, but still, it’s not very fair…
Because of the heat, we were told that we might not see him right away, but as you can tell, he was interested in us and came right over to visit before ambling back over to climb onto his ‘cave’.
They had a number of other wildcats, exotics, that had been owned as pets… meaning neutered and declawed(!)… that will have to live our their days in a cage. Zoos aren’t usually interested in these beautiful cats because they are smaller than the popular lions and tigers.
Each animal had its story, and they had homes for even very common wild animals, like raccoons, squirrels, and Canadian geese that cannot survive in the wild.
Raccoon babies are adorable, but they get less agreeable as adults, and they can be very destructive with their sharp claws and agile paws! Once tamed, it’s hard to get them wild again, and if released ‘tame’, then they become ‘nuisance animals’ – which never ends well for the animal.
Another animal that people try to make into pets are monkeys. Seriously? Why??? They are cute, but require tons of care and work for their entire lives! They are messy and if you are foolish enough to want it as a housepet, it requires a lifetime of diapering. The really sad thing is that they are smart enough to know that their life isn’t ‘normal’ in captivity.
This little guy seemed happy with the attention of our visit, but when we left, he curled up on his platform and tucked his head down into his arms.
Next we went to see the big birds. The center had a nice number of very large enclosures for large prey birds, including one big enough to house a couple of eagles.
Owls and owls.
Most of their food is in ‘dead meat’ form, but we learned that one way they test to see if an owl is ready for release is to house it separately with live mice in a tub. If the mice get eaten, the owl can hunt.
Different species had their own enclosures.
In addition to the very large flight cage, smaller raptors had their own spaces, like these falcons.
My favorite, the crows and ravens, were also taken care of. One crow in their care was held as a pet for many years until the owner’s neighbor called the authorities and they had to take it from her.
They also shelter deer and have a wonderful & private enclosure for them.
…and they house a couple of fox and coyotes that have been confiscated from people holding them as pets. Coyotes do not make good pets!
Red fox are not native to California.
They’ve a nice little pond for rehab birds where they’ve worked out a nice biofilter system for keeping the water clean. Unlike many bird ponds, this one smelled nice… pretty amazing for an organization without sufficient funding or manning! Keeping a bird pond so clean is unusual!
The location they have is great, and they’ve been there since ‘85
They were lucky to get land with water… although this creek is dry most of the summer. They say its very unusual for it to still have water in July, but due to all the snow this winter, all of the rivers in the area are severely flooded and the creek is still going strong.
Unfortunately, many of the houses and animal shelters are smaller and more crowded than they would prefer, but you can tell they are actively working on things and that the animals are well cared for. Among future projects in the works are a better home for this guy… another non-native.
As most of these animals are wild animals, and the goal is to rehab and release those that can be released, there was no getting close to most of these critters, for the critters’ sake, but some were pets and are non-release-able. Honor got to snuggle a wiggle-y ferret… also considered a wild animal and illegal in California.
And waiting for her on the other end of the bridge
another ‘wild’ rescued critter waiting for some attention.
Critter Creek is a place run by hard working volunteers who manage to accomplish a whole heck of a lot, for a huge population of needy animals, with far too little support. If you are able to help out, check out their brochure for their ‘wishlist’ (donations of items, money, and volunteers are needed) and/or consider a membership at this link: http://www.crittercreek.org/Docs/join.htm