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Non-native Animal Policy

The Audubon Society of Portland's Wildlife Care Center does not accept non-native, exotic or domestic animals for treatment.

The Audubon Society of Portland's Wildlife Care Center does not accept non-native, exotic or domestic animals for treatment.

Many of the animals found roaming free in Oregon do not belong here. Some wildlife, such as Rock Doves (city pigeons), Starlings, House Sparrows, nutria, opossums, Fox Squirrels and Eastern Grey Squirrels have been introduced from other places and become established in Oregon.

Others such as feral cats and dogs, domestic ducks and geese, Red-eared Sliders, and peacocks are domesticated animals that have either escaped or been abandoned. In all cases, these animals do not belong in the wild.

The Wildlife Care Center does not accept non-native, exotic, or domestic animals for the following reasons:

  1. Introduced species compete with and reduce the numbers of native wildlife, are ecologically harmful, and can carry diseases contagious to native species. While it may not be immediately apparent, the decision to return an introduced species to the wild is oftentimes a decision to destroy the native wildlife that already inhabits that area. For example, the introduction of nutria (a large South American rodent) to a wetland can make an entire wetland uninhabitable for other bank-dwelling wildlife (otters, muskrats, beavers, etc.). Starlings and House Sparrows are fierce competitors with many native species including Western Bluebirds, wrens and swallows.
  2. The Wildlife Care Center has limited resources. Each year, we take in nearly 3,500 injured and orphaned wild animals. Our facility is set up for one purpose only: to treat injured and orphaned native wildlife for return to the wild. Caring for non-native, exotic and domestic animals directly reduces our ability to accomplish this mission.

Please realize that this is not an isolated or infrequent problem. During 1998, the Wildlife Care Center was brought more than 700 non-native, exotic and domestic animals that were found free-roaming in the wild. These animals represented 32 different species. The list included everything from common non-natives species such as Rock Doves, Starlings and House Sparrows to more surprising animals such as a Nile Monitor Lizard, a Fennec Fox (native to Africa), Prairie Dogs, European Hedgehogs, parrots and European Ferrets.

What You Can Do

  • If you find an injured or orphaned non-native, invasive species, it is against Oregon law for you to care for it yourself or to have a veterinarian treat it. You should contact the Wildlife Care Center for further advice.
  • If you find an abandoned or escaped domesticated animal, please contact an appropriate agency such as the Oregon Humane Society or Multnomah County Animal Control. These agencies do NOT take in non-native wildlife species such as Starlings, House Sparrows, Rock Dove, opossums, nutria, Fox Squirrels and Eastern Grey Squirrels.
  • If you have a domesticated animal that you no longer want, please either find it a new permanent home or take it to an appropriate agency such as Oregon Humane Society or Multnomah County Animal Control. It is inhumane to release a domesticated animal into the wild in Oregon. It is also a Class C misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in prison and fines not to exceed $1,000 to deliberately abandon a domesticated animal.  

Agency Phone Numbers

Audubon Society of Portland Wildlife Care Center:

503-292-0304

Oregon Humane Society:

503-285-0641

Multnomah County Animal Control:

503-988-7387

Non-native Animals Commonly Brought to the Wildlife Care Center

Domestic Ducks

Many of the ducks inhabiting urban parks are domestic ducks that have escaped or been deliberately released from captivity. Many of these birds then successfully breed in the wild. They include the domestic Mallard (usually much larger than the native wild Mallard), the Muscovy Duck, Indian Runner Ducks, and a variety of mixed breeds. The presence of these mostly flightless, non-migratory ducks in urban wetlands and parks causes overcrowding and reduces the already scant urban habitat available to native waterfowl.

Domestic Geese

Many of the geese inhabiting urban parks are domestic geese that have escaped or been deliberately released from captivity. Many of these birds then successfully breed in the wild. They include the Chinese Goose, the Graylag Goose, Toulouse Goose, and the "White" Goose. The presence of these mostly flightless, non-migratory geese in urban wetlands and parks causes overcrowding and reduces the already scant urban habitat available to native waterfowl.

Starlings

Introduced to the United States from Europe, the starling aggressively competes with native bird species for nesting cavities. It is now the most common bird in the United States. Starlings come in a variety of very different plumages. Breeding starlings are iridescent black with yellow bills. In the fall, adult plumage appears more brown. Juvenile plumage appears a gray to brown. Nestlings are easily identified by their huge yellow "clown lips."

House Sparrows

Introduced to the United States from Europe, House Sparrows are notorious for aggressively competing with native bird species for nesting cavities. Differentiation from other native species of sparrow and finch is best done via a good bird identification guide.

City Pigeons/Rock Pigeons

The common city pigeon or Rock Pigeon was introduced to the United States from Europe. It is easy to distinguish from our native Band-tailed Pigeon. Band-tails have yellow legs while the introduced Rock Dove has red legs.

Nutria

The nutria, or "coypu," was brought to the United States from South America to be bred on fur farms. This species subsequently escaped to the wild and established itself across the United States. Nutria are sometimes confused with native muskrats and beaver. An adult nutria is significantly larger than a muskrat and unlike the beaver has a thin, hairless, rat-like tail.

Chukar/Button Quail/Bobwhite Quail/Peacocks

These are all domestic quail that are raised in captivity and occasionally escape or are released to the wild. Identification is best done via a good bird guide.

Opossum

The opossum is native to the United States east of the Rocky Mountains. It has become established along the West Coast and negatively impacts native bird species by raiding nests and consuming eggs.

Fox Squirrels

Fox Squirrels were brought to Oregon from the eastern United States and have established themselves in urban and suburban habitat throughout the state. They are the most common tree squirrels found in Portland. Fox Squirrels are reddish brown in color with large bushy tails and tan undersides. Fox Squirrels are notorious for breeding "out of season," and infant and very young squirrels found after October 1 and earlier that April 1 are members of this species.

Eastern Gray Squirrels

This small gray squirrel with a white belly was introduced to Oregon from the eastern United States. It is rapidly expanding its range and is just now becoming established in Portland. It is similar in color but significantly smaller than the native Western Gray Squirrel. Eastern Gray Squirrels have breeding schedules similar to the Fox Squirrel.

Box Turtles/Red-Eared Sliders/Snapping Turtles

Oregon has only two native turtles, the Western Pond and Western Painted. The pet industry has imported a number of non-native turtle species to Oregon that have subsequently become established in the wild. These turtles transmit disease and compete directly with native turtles and other wildlife.

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