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How Are Wild Animals Injured?

Posted by Kelsey Kuhnhausen at Dec 19, 2018 10:55 AM |

Over the past year, the Wildlife Care Center took in over 3,100 patients of 160 different species. These animals came to us for many different reasons, from a young barn owl who fell into motor oil to a little brown bat stuck in a glue trap.

Over the past year, the Wildlife Care Center took in over 3,100 patients of 160 different species. These animals came to us for many different reasons, from a young barn owl who fell into motor oil to a little brown bat stuck in a glue trap. The details of the individual stories are infinite, but sadly, the plotlines are often the same. And the recurring theme is that interactions between wildlife and humans often results in injury for the wildlife—and it is often unintentional.

This year and virtually every year, the number-one cause of injury in the animals we receive are cats. These wonderful pets are also finely tuned predators, and free-roaming cats can have devastating effects on local wildlife populations. The injuries cats inflict are often severe, and even minor injuries are prone to life-threatening infection. Remember that the animals that make it here to the WCC are only a small proportion of those affected by free-roaming cats; wildlife populations face pressure from many sources, and cat predation is a significant piece of that puzzle.

Wildlife Care Center Injury Graph

Of course, this is a humane issue for our pets as well; there are numerous dangers to unsupervised outdoor cats, often resulting in disease, injury, and a shortened average lifespan. At Portland Audubon we work closely with the Feral Cat Coalition of Oregon and other animal welfare groups to find humane solutions to protect both birds and cats. To learn more about our Cats Safe at Home Campaign and how you can help keep both cats and wildlife safe, please visit the Cats Safe at Home website: catssafeathome.org.

Windows are another nemesis for our avian neighbors; up to a billion birds die each year in the United States after colliding with windows. Here at the Wildlife Care Center, we see waves of these injuries, particularly during the spring and fall migrations. Residential houses or low-rise buildings are responsible for 99% of window strikes, which means many of us in the Portland area live or work in a building that poses danger to local birds in this way. The good news is that this means many of us can take action to protect our wild birds!

A few techniques for reducing the risk of window collisions include making glass more visible to birds (options come at a variety of price points and range from decorative to nearly invisible), ensuring your yard is designed to reduce bird activity near windows, and turning off unnecessary lights at night (when most songbirds migrate). To learn more about how to prevent window collisions in your home and neighborhood, check out Portland Audubon’s Bird-Safe Building and Lights Out! initiatives on our website. Last year Portland Audubon successfully advocated for new bird-safe building design requirements in Portland’s central city. This year we are working with Commissioner Nick Fish’s office to develop a light-pollution ordinance for Portland. Please consider becoming an Audubon activist (see page 4) and helping us advocate to reduce these threats throughout our city.

Although these are only two out of dozens of possible causes of injury for a wild animal, together they make up more than 50% of the injury cases we see here at the Care Center. They are also two of the most preventable! Even the smallest action by a single person can save an animal’s life. So make those windows visible, reduce light pollution around your yard, keep your cat (and the birds) safe at home, and share this information!

Common Nighthawk
Common Nighthawk treated in the Wildlife Care Center for injuries related to a window strike
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