Living in the middle of the Mojave Desert and near a rich resource for wildlife, many Lake Havasu City residents come across wild animals often, even in their own backyards. From families of bunnies to large mountain lions, it’s not an uncommon occurrence.
But what is one to do when they come across a wild animal that’s injured or sick? First, leave it alone and observe, according to Dee Pfleger, wildlife manager supervisor for the Arizona Game and Fish Department.
“Folks will find a lot of baby animals this time of year, and in the spring,” Pfleger said. Many people usually believe that they’ve been orphaned or abandoned when they find them alone, but the parent is usually nearby or out hunting for food.
When it comes to baby birds, “usually the parents will place [the babies] somewhere and come back to bring food to them and take care of them until they are strong enough to fly,” Pfleger said. “They’re very-well-adapted.”
If an animal has almost certainly been abandoned or is visibly hurt or sick, Pfleger said to stay away and keep any pets away from the animal, as it can quickly become a dangerous situation depending on the animal’s condition.
She then recommends calling the nearest AZGFD office or the department’s 24-hour dispatch center, at (623) 236-7201. Someone will provide guidance over the phone and direct the best course of action depending on the situation.
“We’d like to rehabilitate animals whenever possible, but sometimes, we have to let nature take its course,” Pfleger said.
Recently, due to the rainy winter season and late summer, AZGFD has been getting a lot of reports of baby birds.
Pam Short of Havasu Wildlife Rehabilitation Center said baby quails have been coming into her center in large numbers. Since last Tuesday, she has an entire enclosure full of them that have been brought to her or collected after someone has reported them.
Baby ravens have also been collected this year, according to Pfleger and Short. Many of the larger birds, like ravens, are transported to larger rehabilitation centers in Phoenix to allow for socialization and specialized veterinary care. Great horned owls have also been called in this year.
Short’s rehabilitation center works with AZGFD to provide a safe place for wild animals who are found hurt, sick, or abandoned to regain their strength and eventually be re-released into the wild. In 2018, she took in 233 birds, 99 rabbits, four skunks and four raccoons. She’s also taken in a baby coyote and baby bobcat, some of her most memorable animal experiences.
As for Pfleger, her encounter with a lethargic bighorn sheep on someone’s front porch about 25 years ago was definitely one to remember. She also recalled a report of a bear found swimming in Lake Havasu awhile back. She remembered thinking, “Are you sure it’s not a beaver?”