Slow down or risk orphaning wildlife
by Shari Goldstein Stern
If you’ve seen any raccoons wandering aimlessly in the neighborhood or your back yard, hopefully they were alive and healthy. Unfortunately, as much as we don’t want them in our attics, walls, gardens or decks, they’re not too happy about us either.
You may want to store this phone number in your cell: 214-368-5911.
That’s 911 Wildlife, and founder and president, Bonnie Bradshaw says they’re here to treat wild animals in urban areas humanely, to keep them out of harm’s way and then to return them to their natural environment.
When you call, a trained wildlife technician will guide you through what you should and shouldn’t do, and will come out to evict, exclude or rescue the animal humanely, for what Bradshaw says is an affordable fee.
The 911’s technicians are trained in wildlife rehabilitation, in addition to wildlife eviction and exclusion, then sub-permitted by Texas Parks and Wildlife.
White Rock resident and White Rock Lake Weekly staffer Becky Bridges rescued a baby raccoon a few years ago. After some research, she took the orphan to 911 Wildlife, which she found online, and spoke with Bradshaw. Bridges went back a few months later and helped release the baby into a protected area. “It was a wonderful feeling,” she said.
When Bridges recently spotted a dead raccoon on Williamson Rd. near the lake, she remembered her experience rescuing the orphan.
Bradshaw was frustrated and passionate about the treatment of wildlife in the city, so she created a business plan and acquired initial funding from Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) for treatment of orphaned animals. She founded 911 Wildlife in 2006. Read more about Bradshaw, a Bryan Adams ’75 alumna, and her career in a future issue of White Rock Lake Weekly.
According to 911 Wildlife’s mission statement, “911 Wildlife is owned and operated by wildlife rehabilitators. Our mission is to prevent native wildlife from being orphaned, injured, relocated or euthanized by offering humane, effective solutions for homeowners and property managers.”
The company only uses methods endorsed by the Humane Society of the United States, Houston SPCA, Bat Conservation International, Wildlife Center of Texas, Friends of Texas Wildlife and DFW Wildlife Coalition.
Bradshaw explained how their process works. If, after a thorough inspection, they find a single raccoon, they work to evict. “Eviction is installing a one-way device that allows the animal to exit the attic and then prevents it from re-entering.
It does not trap the animal. The raccoon (or other animal) can exit and then run free. ‘Exclusion’ is when we come back a few days later to remove the one-way device and replace it with sheet metal flashing to permanently prevent animals from entering the hole.”
When inspection reveals a family in the attic, the mother’s self-preservation kicks in and she hides in the insulation, although the babies are free. The team installs a “reunion” box outside the attic, with a heating pad and wax to keep the container dry.
They move the babies to the box in hope is that the mother will come through the one way door in the night and move the babies to one of her dens, like a hole in a tree. The team goes back to check the next morning. If the orphans are still there, they wait another night. More than 70 percent of the time the babies are gone. If not, with a Texas Parks and Wildlife permit as a Rehabilitator, Bradshaw removes the orphans and cares for them. When they’re healthy and strong enough, usually by six months, 911 sets them free.
Bradshaw said that starting in November of 2012, 911 saw huge numbers of raccoons having seizures, symptomatic of distemper, not rabies. Although distemper’s not contagious to people, it is contagious to unvaccinated dogs and cats.
“One of the worst culprits is pet food. Some people think they’re helping by leaving out cat and dog food. What they’re really doing is creating a death trap for raccoons,” Bradshaw added.
Raccoon deaths attributed to distemper have been reported throughout the White Rock area and have spread throughout Northeast Dallas, then North Dallas and in Ft. Worth. Bradshaw advised, “Make sure your dogs and cats are vaccinated, and always bring in food before dark.”
A reason so many raccoons are hit by cars, besides the obvious speeding drivers, is that distemper affects the animals’ central nervous system, limiting their normal fear of people and traffic. It can slow them down in the middle of the street, with a good chance of being hit.
Squirrels, possums, bats and skunks, along with raccoons usually become orphaned when trappers catch or hunters kill the mother and take her away, leaving the orphans without food for survival.
They are usually emaciated when they are rescued. 911 gets the animals stronger and living without pain before releasing them.
The City of Dallas Animal Control’s online search connects you to “Dallas Animal Services.” This website has a link for “wildlife.” The page gives some educational information about how to prevent raccoons and other wildlife from coming on your property, and states: “Dallas Animal Services will remove wildlife only if they become a threat to humans or homes. There is a healthy wildlife population in Dallas, especially if you live near creeks or lakes. Wildlife is present because there is a food and/or water source nearby. Be sure to never leave pet food outside, secure your trashcans, and don’t leave very small animals unattended outside.” The City does provide a list of phone numbers to area agencies listed as “wildlife sites and rehabilitators.”
It would be wise if, when you call these listings, you’re sure to ask questions about the services and treatment the agency provides, including pick up and rehabilitation, along with euthanasia practices.