Tucson Wildlife Center

Rescue | Rehab | Release (520) 290-9453

Rescue FAQ

We strive to provide the best care for the wildlife that need it, and educate the public about how they can help us rescue animals and protect southern Arizona’s wildlife. Here, we provide answers to frequently asked questions of our Animal Care Managers and volunteers. If the answer to a question you have is not here, or you are not sure how to implement these practices, please call our 24/7 helpline (520) 290-9453.

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Will mother birds feed their babies on the ground?

If the ba100_0176by has most of its feathers and it flutters its little wings in the presence of an adult, then they are fledglings and the parents will feed it on the ground. If the baby cannot walk, only has fluff or no feathers, or its eyes aren’t open, they should be placed back in the nest.

What do I do if a bird falls out of its nest? Do I give it food or water?

faq-2Do not give the animal food, as tempting as it may be. You can leave water in a dish on the ground. If the bird looks healthy and isn’t cold, and you can see the nest and can reach it, try to renest it. If the nest is too high, you can try to make a nest as high as you can with an old plastic container. Cut small holes in the bottom of the container so if it rains the nest won’t flood with water. Line the nest with grasses or a soft, dry washcloth with no strings coming off of it. Attach the nest to the tree or fence or whatever is nearby the original nest with wire or string or bolts/screws. If you can rest it on top of a branch or two, that would be ideal so when the baby fledges (leaves the nest) there will be a branch to perch on nearby. Put the baby in the nest and watch from a distance for up to an hour or two to see if the parents come to feed the baby.

There's a baby bunny in my backyard. Is it abandoned?

bunnyCottontail rabbit mothers make a small impression in the ground and line it with fur for their young. They come back to the nest only twice per day; once in the morning, and once in the evening to feed her young. So you may never end up seeing mom! This keeps predators away from the nest since the babies have virtually no smell. To see if mom is coming back to visit her young, you can make an “X” over the nest with some natural-colored yard or light sticks or sprinkle a border of flour around the nest (but not on the babies!).

If the “X” is disturbed, or there are footprints in the flour, mom is likely coming back. Also, you’d be amazed at how small the bunnies are when they are old enough to leave the nest to be on their own. Because they’re new to the wild world, when they’re approached by a predator (people) they sit very still and hope the predator will not see or smell them and move on. As they get older, they learn to run away from danger. Just because the bunny is small and not moving does not immediately mean it needs rescued. If you can take a picture of the bunny, call the center to discuss the situation and be prepared to send us the photo to determine whether a rescue is warranted or not. And remember, rabbits are prey animals, so they can and will be exposed to all kinds of predators if not needing to be rescued – this is how nature works so well!

I saw owls being shot at. Who should I call first? Police or Game & Fish?

bubbaALL RAPTORS ARE FEDERALLY PROTECTED! If the shooting is within city limits, you should call both. It is illegal to discharge a firearm within city limits. Also call the Game and Fish poaching and illegal activity phone number at 520-628-5376. If a bird is injured, call us as well 520 290-9453.

There's a bird building a nest over my carport. Can I take it down?

nestMost birds and their nests are federally protected by the migratory bird treaty act, so removing a nest while there are eggs or nestlings may be illegal. Plus, baby birds grow up fast and leave the nest in a few weeks anyway, depending on the species. Once the birds leave the nest, you can remove the nest carefully. You can take steps to prevent them from nesting there again, like using those plastic owl ornaments available at hardware stores.

Can you remove a nuisance animal for me?

Since we are a wildlife rehabilitation center, we only deal with injured, ill, or orphaned animals. Trapping and removing healthy wildlife requires a permit and can be handled in a humane way. We strive to educate the public on how to coexist with wildlife, or how to prevent wildlife from coming to you with natural solutions.

I'm worried that a coyote or bobcat is going to take my pets.

Dsc01514 BobcatCoyote in Kennel 1Bobcats generally tend to leave pets alone unless they feel threatened or cornered, but coyotes are opportunistic and can attack and seriously injure or kill a cat or small dog for a meal, though this isn’t common. This is one great reason to keep your cats indoors and to keep an eye on your dogs at all times when outdoors. You can scare these predators away with loud noises or sprays from a water hose.

How do I get rid of an animal under my porch or in my garage?

kittenDepends on the animal. One option is to wait until the animal leaves (which may be nighttime) and board up or repair the area they’re entering from. Of course, make sure you’re not blocking mom from getting back to any babies she may be tending to inside! Another option is to turn bright lights on in the area and play loud talk radio. It’s stressful and annoying to the animal and they will probably find a quieter place to live (perhaps your neighbor!).

I found a bat. What do I do?

batFirst of all, do not pick up the bat with your bare hands. Bring any pets you have indoors or out of the area where the bat is. Then, carefully, scoop the bat up with a piece of cardboard into a box or use leather gloves to gently pick the bat up and put into a box with a lid and keep in a quiet, dark place to take to TWC. If you are uncomfortable, please call the center for further information and instructions. If you or a pet has had any contact with the bat, you must tell the center the details.

I saw a desert tortoise. What do I do?

tortoiseLeave it alone. If it’s trying to cross the road, gently and slowly help it get to the side of the road the tortoise is heading towards. If you’re in a residential area where there isn’t natural desert around, it could be an escaped or “released” captive tortoise. Call Arizona Game and Fish.

There is a limping coyote with mange,what can I do to help?

coyoteCoyotes are remarkable at compensating with their handicaps. Mangy coyotes often live years this way, and a coyote with 3 working legs can still outrun us trying to rescue it. If the coyote looks weak, or if you can get very close to it without it running off, you should give us a call for further instructions. You can also try getting a little close and clapping your hands or banging objects together to make a lot of noise, and if the coyote runs off quickly, then it’s unlikely we’ll be able to catch it

An animal is making their home my home. What do I do?

Wildlife families can sometimes be found making their homes in our homes, especially during spring and summer. If the animals are not causing damage or harm, consider letting your wild roommates hang out until autumn, when nesting season is over. Once nesting season is over, the animals will vacate on their own. Then you can make repairs to prevent the animal from returning next season.

If the animals must be removed, try gently discouraging them. Wildlife live within a certain range, and if they feel as though their nesting site has been disturbed, they will move their babies to a new place. You can deter animals from their nesting site by using a mix of unpleasant smells and sounds. Some options include apple cider vinegar (not ammonia), lights and a blaring radio during nighttime hours. Evicting animals from buildings is very hard on wildlife, and often can lead the frightened parents to abandon their young. Seal them out before spring!

Need help? Contact a professional! Contact a company with experience in safely and humanely relocating wildlife, such as Animal Expects at (520) 531-1020.

Prevent and reduce attractants

Animals are attracted to areas with available food, water, shelter and/or cover. Problems will persist if action is not taken to remove wildlife attractants to the home. Regularly maintaining your home and yard can help reduce the number of unwanted visitors.

  • Remove all traces of food by cleaning up fallen berries, nuts, fruits, bird seed, etc… and feed pets indoors. When feeding birds, feed small amounts at a time, clean fallen seed and bring feeders in at night. Store all food in airtight, rodent-proof containers.
  • Remove garbage and secure trash cans. Wait to put trash containers out until the morning of pickups.
  • Regularly maintain your yard by pulling weeds and ivy, raking leaves, mowing grass, and trimming overgrown  plants. Cut tree branches three feet away from roof.  Remove wood piles. Consider planting “trap crops” or crops planted specifically to attract insects to deter them from other plants. Remove insects manually with gloves.
  • Protect your garden and plants by lining holes with hardware cloth or heavy wire.
  • Deny mice and rats access to food in your home by sealing holes and cracks that are larger than 1/4-inch wide with hardware cloth, cement, metal and copper mesh wool. Cap your chimney!
  • Use motion-activated lights in areas rats frequent, like under your car or hood.
  • Build a barn owl box! A single barn owl can eat 1,000 rodents in a year! Do not build an owl box if pesticides have been used around your home.
  • Build secure enclosures with tops for livestock and chickens. Elevate your chicken coop by 18 inches.

Download and print more information: Trap and Poison Flyers PDF


How can I trap and release an animal humanely?

Use Havahart live traps to safely and humanely capture small to large mammals for relocation.  Traps are available in several sizes, depending on the animal you are trying to capture. You can purchase a Havahart live trap at www.havahart.com or at your local hardware store.

Tips on using humane live traps:
  • Size: Visit ww.Havahart.com to find the right size trap for the animal you want to capture. Havahart traps come in different sizes to ensure the animal you are looking to capture is caught safely and securely. The type of trap you use will depend on the animal you are capturing.
  • Bait: The bait will depend on the animal you are capturing. Havahart suggests marshmallows for raccoons, cabbage for rabbits, peanuts for squirrels and canned fish for skunks or opossums. Wear gloves to avoid transferring your scent onto the bait or trap. Make sure to position your bait correctly. If you’re using a trap that has one door, put the bait near the back-end, just after the trigger plate. If you are using a two-door trap, you will need to put the bait in the middle of the trap. Locate where the animal is making their home and create a trail of bait that leads to the open door of the trap. More information on www.havahart.com/how-to-bait.
  • Check the trap: Check the trap frequently, preferably every hour, at LEAST every 6 hours. The longer that the animal is trapped, the more the animal will become anxious, scared and hungry. Ants can also start to attack the defenseless animal. Animals can injure themselves if kept in traps for long periods of time.
  • Once caught: Once the animal is caught, keep your voice down and approach the trap slowly and cover the trap with a towel or sheet. Keep noises, radios and talking to a minimum. Transport the animal while inside the covered trap to your release site. If the animal is injured, lethargic, or covered in ants, call Tucson Wildlife Center at 520-290-WILD (9453).
  • Release: Release live animals 1/4 mile away, or in a desert wash near prickly pear, palo verde trees, mesquite trees, agave, fruit trees and flowering cacti (for food and hydration). Once you arrive at your release site, face the trap entrance into the desert (not towards the road or your car). Uncover the trap to let the animal adjust for a few minutes to its surroundings before opening the door. Once the trap door is open, give the animal a lot of space by moving several feet away. They should run out on their own.
  • Need help? Call a professional! Contact a company with experience in safely and humanely relocating wildlife, such as Animal Expects at (520) 531-1020.

Information found at: www.havahart.com/expert-how-to-tips-to-trap-animals 

Download and print more information: Trap and Poison Flyers PDF

What are some alternatives to using poison to keep animals away?

Rat poison doesn’t just kill rats, but affects wildlife, humans, pets and the environment.

Poisons not only kill rats and mice, but can kill wildlife that eat those animals, including owls, hawks, bobcats, mountain lions, coyotes, raccoons, skunks, other wildlife, and even domestic pets.

Rodenticides used alone or in bait boxes, herbicides, pesticides and other toxins not only directly harm wildlife, but they also build up in smaller prey and soil, and contaminate groundwater. Toxins are consumed by the rodents and insects, who are then consumed by larger predators. This causes the toxins to be transferred from prey to predator and accumulate in large amounts in animals higher up the food chain. Top predators like owls, hawks, coyotes and bobcats can become sick and even die from continued toxin exposure through the food chain.

Not only can these poisons be directly toxic leading to bleeding, seizures and death, but lower levels can also impair the immune system, causing coyotes, bobcats, eagles, owls and other wildlife to be  more susceptible to diseases like mange.

Alternatives to using poisons

Alternatives to using pesticides include planting “trap crops,” crops planted specifically to attract insects to deter them from other plants, removing insects manually with gloves, and excluding insects and spiders through the use of door thresholds, weather stripping and roof vents.

Alternatives to herbicides include hand pulling weeds when ground is moist, suppressing weeds with mulches free of PVCs (polyvinyl chloride), and using netted or plastic barriers under unplanted landscaping materials such as pebbles, mulch, or stone.

Instead of rodenticides, sprinkle cinnamon in areas they frequent most. Place peppermint oil-soaked cotton balls and rags throughout infested areas (you will need to re-soak frequently). Deny mice and rats access to food in your home by sealing holes and cracks that are larger than 1/4-inch wide using hardware cloth, and store all food in airtight, rodent-proof containers. Don’t leave out pet food and clean spilled birdseed.

Instead of strychnine and gas poisons, use heavy wire (or hardware cloth) to line holes for planting and to protect gardens. Sprinkle baby powder around areas rodents and rabbits frequent. Remember, desert holes made by rodents keep rain water from running off and provide moisture for plants and trees.

Download and print more information: Trap and Poison Flyers PDF

I found an animal on a trap, what do I do?

Tucson Wildlife Center admits a large number of suffering animals every year that are caught in kill traps and glue traps. Glue traps, rodent traps and kill traps cause very painful, slow, cruel deaths and often catch unintended targets like bats, small birds, reptiles, skunks, raccoons, other mammals and even pets.

Steel jaw traps and rodent traps are excruciatingly painful, often cutting through tissue down to the bone. Wildlife will struggle for hours, sometimes days, being attacked by predators and trying to gnaw or bite off their limbs in attempt to escape before succumbing to exhaustion, dehydration, shock, exposure and death.

NEVER attempt to remove an animal from ANY trap on your own. For best chances of survival, call Tucson Wildlife Center and bring the animal to our 24/7 rescue, rehab and release hospital. Medical treatment is almost always needed once a trap is removed.

Download and print more information: Trap and Poison Flyers PDF


How do I prevent birds from crashing into my windows?

Some birds crash into windows after mistaking their reflections for another bird. Some, like Cooper’s hawks, will chase birds into windows to injure their prey. Others simply don’t see the glass.

Make your windows safer with these tips:

  • Place feeders closer to the window (less than 3 feet) or farther away from the window (more than 10 feet)
  • Use a window screen
  • Place decals on the window, including cut-outs of raptors and glass decorations
  • Place vertical exterior tape on windows 4 inches apart
  • Leave vertical blind slats open halfway
  • Plant trees and bushes outside of windows, or grow tall plants along the windowsill

For help and emergencies, please call our 24/7 helpline at (520) 290-9453.

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