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Tight Lines - Wild Doesn’t Mean Pets

POSTED July 31, 2012 11:14 p.m.

I saw an item on the nightly news recently about a fellow accused of trying to sell two bear cubs. He claimed he’d been attacked by the mama bear and had to kill her in self-defense. Rather than abandon the cubs to die, he had brought them into town. The story gets a little fuzzy from then on, but eventually the cubs were taken by Fish and Game personnel to a shelter that specializes in releasing critters back into the wild. The cubs were really cute little guys and I hope they make it in their transition back to the wild. Unfortunately such incidents aren’t that uncommon, and involve all sorts of animals.

On a Saturday morning about 25 years ago, I heard a voice on the phone ask “Were you serious when you said you wanted a baby coyote for a pet?” After a few seconds, I deduced that it was my buddy Charlie on the other end of the phone. It seems that a mama coyote wasn’t too particular about where she dug her den to have her babies. The silly coyote dug her den right in the middle of Charles’s almond orchard. That wouldn’t have been so bad except that that particular orchard was flood irrigated and the irrigation water filled up the coyote den leaving Charlie with four coyote puppies. My son Bo and I picked up the puppies and took them home where we fed the little guys a mixture of milk and raw egg from an eye dropper. The little critters didn’t even have their eyes all the way open, there’s no way they’d have survived in the wild.

While it was really tempting to try to raise a baby coyote for a pet, I called Dan Lehman, our local Game Warden. Dan proceeded to explain why keeping a pet coyote was really a bad idea. For one thing, wherever there’s a pet coyote in the neighborhood the area cats start disappearing. When you come right down to it, most wild critters aren’t meant for captivity and will be a lot better off if returned to the wild. Dan and his partner took the puppies to a wildlife shelter in the Sierra foothills where they’ll be eventually returned to the wild where they belong.

Now is the season when two events converge, first, more humans are going out afield to enjoy the wonders of the outdoors and second, there are lots of wild babies at this time of year. Put the two together, and you have humans discovering what appear to be abandoned wild babies. Here’s a word of advice. DON’T, repeat, DON’T bring wild critters home. They are probably not abandoned, and the mother is probably nearby. If you find a wild critter in the woods or fields the best thing to do is leave it alone and it will probably be all right.

If you feel you must capture a critter in order to save it, do so with caution. I carry a pair of thick work gloves in the back of my truck along with a draw string collecting bag. Pick the critter up as gently as possible and put it in a bag or box to keep it calm. Since you can’t keep a wild pet, now what do you do? The first step is to call your local Fish and Game representative. If you can’t find DFG, contact one of the Wildlife rehab centers. You should be able to find one near you on Google or in the yellow pages. As a last resort, contact me and I’ll find a warden or shelter for you. Until next time, Tight Lines.

Don Moyer is a longtime Central Valley resident and avid outdoorsman. He contributes occasional columns.

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