9/15/2023 – Officer Mullen reports…
Rabbit freeway rescue! A Good Samaritan noticed a rabbit on the side of the freeway and called us. Three of our Animal Control Officers – Officer Ortega, Officer Tumath and Officer Quirk – managed to stop traffic on I-80 Westbound from the Bay Bridge to rescue the rabbit. The Officers stopped the cars, corralled the bunny, and brought her back to the shelter at 1419 Bryant Street, San Francisco. She is healthy, uninjured, and doing well in our care. She will be at the SFACC shelter for several days to see if an owner claims her. If no one comes forward, she might be available for adoption early next week. Shelter staff have nicknamed her Elektra after another female daredevil of note.
9/8/2023 Officer Mullen reports…
I received an early morning call from a concerned San Francisco resident about a couple of underaged orphaned kittens that she was trying to help. The resident explained that she had been observing a mom and kittens the last few weeks on her routine walks with her dog. Momma cat kept her kittens tucked away under a bush near the sidewalk. A few days ago, on her morning walk, she noticed that mom was missing. Kittens were still in the nest under the bush, but mom was nowhere to be seen. Knowing that the mom may be out getting herself some food, the resident did not worry too much. However that evening and the following day, the mom was still not seen with the kittens and the resident started to worry. The resident went back to the location later that night to find the kittens still alone and were now getting cold to the touch and were starting to cry and stray from the nesting area. Concerned that the babies had been without mom for over 48 hours, she gathered up the kittens and placed them in a small carrier and brought them into her house for the night.
Aside from warming them up and keeping them safe, the resident was not sure what to do with these kittens. Thankfully she had fostered larger kittens before and knew a bit about kitten husbandry but did not know how to bottle feed these approximately 3 week old kittens. She gave me a call early the next morning and explained her situation. I met her at the front gates of the shelter prior to opening. She had done a great job keeping the kittens safe and did the right thing by monitoring the situation for 48 hours and then stepped in when the kittens appeared to be declining without the warmth and nourishment from their mom. I brought the kittens into the shelter and they appeared to be warm, in good health and ready to eat. With only a slight encouragement, the kittens rapidly drank from the bottle and filled their tummies with warm satisfying formula, stopping to pose for a few adorable milk mustache photos. After their meal, they quickly passed out cuddled next to each other in a warm carrier with a soft stuffed animal to snuggle with. Thankfully our wonderful RVT, Angie, who is also a bottle feeder extraordinaire was able to take the kittens home that night and foster them temporarily for a few days until a more permanent foster became available.
Our foster program historically places between 750-800 animals per year. A majority of those animals are underage kittens. However, very few of those underage kittens need bottle feeding, as most of them are over 4 weeks and eating solid food on their own. Bottle feeding is a specialized skill that requires a very dedicated foster parent. Kittens under 3 weeks old cannot regulate their temperature and require supplemental heat to keep warm. This is why kittens tend to pile on top of each other and against mom. Kittens under 4 weeks of age require a liquid diet, mom’s milk is the best, but when that is not available, KMR formula is a great substitute. Bottling kittens can be very challenging and can lead to complications such as aspiration pneumonia. However for most of these at-risk kittens, if we do not step in and at least try bottle feeding, they would experience an even worse outcome. Have you, or anyone you know, ever successfully bottle fed a kitten? Would you like to showcase your skill with our amazing kittens? We would love to help more at risk kittens like these two and just need a few more foster parents available to help us with these precious babies. If you have bottle feeding experience or would like to help out our foster program in other capacities, here is a link to find out more about the foster programs we have available: https://www.sfanimalcare.org/how-to-foster-animals/
If you find a litter of kittens in distress, please call our dispatch at 415-554-9400 and we will ask you a few questions about the situation. We will probably have you send in a picture or video so we can correctly address what is happening. We do not want to steal any babies from mommas that may have left them temporarily to find food. However, if the kittens appear to be abandoned by mom, we will want to step in to provide them the care that is needed to be healthy and thrive. Thanks again to this concerned resident and all other concerned parties that call our dispatch line to report sick, injured, and displaced animals throughout the city.
9/1/2023 Officer Mullen reports…
I received an early morning call from a concerned homeowner, whose dog alerted him to a couple of baby squirrels on the ground in the backyard. The concerned pup became protective of the babies and was reluctant to have their human help in this situation. Fortunately the homeowner was able to wrangle his pup inside and give our dispatch a call at 415-554-9400. I was in the area and was able to get to his house quickly and assess the situation. In his backyard there were three 5-week-old baby squirrels curled up in the dirt with no mother in sight. They were cold to the touch and barely moving. I quickly gathered them up in a towel and got them back to the van. With the heater blasting in the van, they slowly warmed up and started moving more. I placed them in a low-sided box in the front passenger seat of the van. The smallest one was the coldest and at the stoplight I would rotate the little one in front of the heater. When we arrived back at the shelter, I was able to get them better set up in a box with proper heat support. After some quick warm subcutaneous fluids to help with dehydration and hypothermia, they were left alone in the box to continue the slow warming process. Every so often I would check on them and see that they were continuing to improve as they warmed up.
Squirrels are the most diverse of all modern mammals with more than 278 species thriving anywhere from the Arctic tundra to the tropical rainforests and living in environments from farms to suburbs and even big cities. They are born hairless and are both blind and deaf for the first 8 weeks of life and must be fed every 2-3 hours for several weeks. Mothers often build a second nest in case of danger and will carry the young to the new location if she senses a problem. The young remain with the mother in the den until about 4-5 months of age.
Now that the baby squirrels were improving, I had to start thinking of their next step. Thankfully SFACC has a fantastic partnership with Yggdrasil Urban Wildlife Rescue (YUWR) and the founder, Lila. I texted Lila and she was happy to accept them into her rescue. As ACOs we text Lila at all hours of the morning and night, and she is always available to answer our questions and ultimately say yes to most of our intake needs. When we arrive at the rescue, Lila is always there to greet us with open arms and a smile, and sometimes if you’re lucky maybe even a cat or two. If you are interested in volunteering or learning more about the wonderful work done at YUWR please visit their website and see how you can make a difference to the wildlife in our urban environment.
Officer Mullen reports…
This week Officer Sherwood and Officer-in-training Leiendecker were called out for a family of raccoons stuck in a tight situation. When the officers arrived they found two young raccoons stuck in a fence by their back legs. Momma raccoon was able to free one of the kits with the help of a chair that the homeowner had provided to help. After momma took the first kit to a safe spot, she came back to get the second kit, but he was a bit more stuck and momma was having a hard time getting the rear leg freed. The officers used their metal catch poles to separate the fencing from the house, just enough to loosen the grip on the leg. Since this kit was still young, the officers were able to cover him with a towel to calm him. With the protection of bite gloves the officers stood on each side of the animal and gently slid the leg upwards to free the raccoon. Once the kit was free, momma raccoon ran up, inspected her kit, and then ran off with him to rejoin the sibling. Thankfully the homeowner acted quickly; their legs were not damaged.
Raccoons have very tight-knit families. A mother raccoon can give birth to up to seven kits, but on average three to four kits survive each breeding season. The babies are weaned after about 3 months, but remain with their family for 12-16 months. The mother is a wonderful teacher who teaches the young to be independent and adapt to both rural and urban environments. After birthing her young, a momma raccoon will stay in the same den for up to 7 weeks and then once the babies are agile enough to run and climb, the family will find a new den every few days to keep predators from finding them. The average home range for a raccoon depends on habitat and food supply. In the urban environment, the average range for a raccoon is about one mile, whereas in the rural environment it can be closer to 15 miles.
Since raccoon babies are typically born in early spring between March and April, we are now seeing the 4-5 month old kits out enjoying the world…and sometimes getting into trouble. Please call our dispatch line at 415-554-9400 if you see a raccoon in distress, sick or injured. Thank you for alerting us to the needs of our urban wildlife.