Challenges resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic have forced The Living Desert to critically evaluate the distribution of our resources. Therefore, we have made the difficult decision to close the Wildlife Rehabilitation program in order to best maintain our commitment to desert conservation. This change is effective as of June 30, 2020.
Finding a wild animal that you suspect is injured, sick, or orphaned can be stressful. It is good to familiarize yourself with resources, should you need them.
Please note: It is illegal to possess wildlife for more than 48 hours without wildlife permits. Contact a permitted wildlife rehabilitator to report finding an injured, orphaned, or sick animal.
If you are within the Coachella Valley and find a bird in need of rehabilitation, you can contact VCA Valley Animal Medical Center (760) 342-4711, Project Wildlife Ramona (760) 789-2324, California Department of Fish and Wildlife (916) 358-2790, and Riverside County Department of Animal Services (760) 343-3644:
- Riverside County services Coachella Valley cities except Palm Springs, Rancho Mirage, and Desert Hot Springs
- Palm Springs Animal Control: (760) 323-8151
- Mirage Animal Control: (760) 770-3220
- Desert Hot Springs Animal Control: (760) 329-6411 extension 450 or 451
For species-specific information, please see the below for advice on coexistence and what to do if you find an animal that you suspect needs help.
The Coachella Valley is home to more than twenty native species of bat. Myths and fears regarding bats abound, but in truth the bat species play an important role in many ecosystems, including our deserts, by controlling insect populations. Larger bat species like the Pallid Bat will even eat scorpions. Additionally, some species consume nectar, which helps to pollinate desert plants.
Many of the bat species found in the Coachella Valley are crevice or cavity roosters, meaning they spend their time in spaces such as the cracks between rock formations. Other species are foliage-roosting and rest in the skirts of native fan palm trees. Bats emerge at, or just before, dusk to capture and feed upon insects. Some bat species feed twice per night, returning to the roost between feedings to digest.
What should you do if you find a bat that you suspect needs help?
The first step is always to protect yourself, by not inviting any direct contact with the bat. Bats are a rabies-vector species, meaning that any bat has the potential to carry and transmit rabies to other mammals. However, keep in mind that less than 1% of all bats contract rabies. Still, it is best to be careful when dealing with a bat situation.
If you find a bat that is obviously injured (examples include: broken or torn wing, bleeding, caught by a pet cat or dog), call your city’s animal control to have them pick up the bat. If your pet has caught the bat, contact your veterinarian to determine if the pet needs a rabies vaccination booster.
Never have direct skin to skin contact with a bat! If you do need to contain an injured bat, use a tool like a broom to gently move the bat into a secure container. Keep pets and children away from the container until animal control arrives.
If you or someone in your family has had direct contact with a bat, contain the bat if possible, and contact animal control and the public health department
immediately to report the exposure. Animal control will most likely submit the bat for rabies testing, and you may be prompted to get post-exposure rabies treatment.
Riverside County Department of Public Health: (951) 358-5107.
Animal Control Links:
Riverside County Animal Services (760) 343-3644
Palm Springs Animal Control (760) 323-8151
Rancho Mirage Animal Control (760) 770-3220
Desert Hot Springs Animal Control (760) 329-6411 x450 or x451
Coexistence with Wildlife
The Living Desert promotes coexistence with native wildlife. Conflict situations may occur when attractants (sources of food, water, and shelter) draw wildlife into closer proximity with humans. Addressing these conflict issues starts first with identifying these attractants and then taking steps to either eliminate or reduce them.
Being proactive is important in preventing future conflict. Consider the attractants around your home and workplace and make changes. Simple actions can make a big difference! If you are experiencing a conflict issue, please contact a wildlife rehabilitator for further advice. More info>>
- Pet food or water bowls left outdoors, particularly overnight
- Unsupervised cats and small dogs
- Birdseed, citrus trees
- Woodpiles, overgrown brush, cluttered areas
Steps to Coexistence:
- Be a responsible pet owner. Contain outdoor cats in a “catio” and supervise small pets when outdoors. Remove pet food and water bowls at night.
- Regularly clean up spilled seed and fallen citrus.
- De-clutter spaces and keep brush trimmed, seal cracks/gaps around the home.
- Never directly feed wildlife! This creates more difficult conflict situations and is dangerous for both humans and animals.
Why Not Relocate Wildlife?
- It is illegal. In California, permits are required to remove or relocate wild animals. All native bird species are also protected by federal law.
- This is not a permanent solution to the problem. Removing an animal creates an open space in that habitat for more animals to move in. It is far more effective to address the attractants drawing animals to the area instead.
- In coyotes, removing animals actually causes females to have more pups in each litter, as biology attempts to compensate for the loss in population
Coyotes are an important and iconic part of our desert ecosystem, helping to keep populations of rabbits and rodents from becoming too large. These highly opportunistic, adaptable creatures may be seen at any time of day, but are mainly crepuscular, meaning most active at dawn and dusk.
Human-coyote conflict occurs in areas where human activities draw coyotes into places where humans live. For example, coyotes may enter a neighborhood where people keep pet food outside or leave small pets unsupervised. The Living Desert does not remove or relocate wildlife, including coyotes. Rather, learning how to coexist with coyotes is the key to resolving human-coyote conflict.
Coexistence has three factors:
1.) Understand coyote natural history. Learning as much as possible about wildlife species is the first step to learning how to coexist. Did you know? Coyotes can climb trees! This is oftentimes how they enter gated communities. Learn more>>
2.) Remove attractants. Think about sources of food, water, and shelter that may be drawing coyotes to an area. Focus on reducing or eliminating attractants in that area. It is important to note that small pets must always be protected while outdoors – domestic cats are especially easy targets for coyotes! Removing attractants should be a community-wide effort, so coyotes do not just move a few houses over to take advantage of those same resources elsewhere. Learn more>>
3.) Learn to “haze” coyotes. Hazing refers to using noise to scare off coyotes. By nature, coyotes are fearful of humans. Hazing “reminds” coyotes that people are scary, and along with removing attractants, hazing can encourage coyotes to move to a quieter area. Coyote hazing must be a team effort - residents should haze every time they see a coyote. People should make noise until the coyote leaves the area, so the coyote learns it is an unpleasant area. Learn more about effective hazing>>
Keeping Birds Safe
The desert is home to a wide variety of birds, some of which are resident meaning they live within the desert year-round, while others migrate through during the winter months. Several are icons of the desert including the Greater Roadrunner and the Burrowing Owl. Even water birds like pelicans may occasionally be found in the Coachella Valley, using man-made lakes as a resting site during migration.
Birds face many human-caused threats. It is important for everyone to take steps to help protect bird species from these threats. Here are some ways to help:
1.) Always keep pet cats indoors or securely contained in an outdoor structure like a “catio”. Pet and feral cats have a devastating impact on wild bird populations, killing over one billion birds a year in the United States alone. American Bird Conservancy’s “Cats Indoors” program has some tips for protecting birds from cats: https://abcbirds.org/catio-solutions-cats/. Keeping pet cats supervised and contained has the secondary benefit of protecting them from the dangers of predation, cars, and disease.
2.) Make your windows bird-safe. Every year, up to one billion birds die from collisions with glass windows and doors, at both businesses and homes. Several window products have been developed, that when applied correctly, can reduce or even eliminate bird strikes. American Bird Conservancy maintains a list of these products. You can also help simply by keeping bird feeders and baths away from windows.
3.) Avoid the use of poisons and pesticides around your home. These products cause harm to all wildlife, not just birds. Rodenticides (rat poison) often have fatal effects on unintended targets such as birds of prey, which consume poisoned rodents. Learn about strategies for rodent control that do not harm wildlife. Many insecticides are toxic to birds and eliminate important food sources for birds. Learn which products to be aware>>
4.) Help prevent injured and orphaned birds by only trimming trees outside of the nesting season. In the desert, nesting season is from February through September, so it is best to trim during the months of October through January.
Per the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty, it is illegal to disturb active nests of any native bird.
Other Ways to Help Wildlife
There are countless ways to help native, local wildlife! Please spread the word to your friends, family, and neighbors. We all need to do our part to help wildlife.
- Fill your yard or workplace with native species of plants. Native plants provide food and shelter to birds, mammals, reptiles, and invertebrates. Convert your yard from grass to desert landscaping, which is water efficient, beautiful, and friendlier to wildlife! Audubon can help you learn which native plants are best for your area.
- Reduce your use of plastics, which are consumed by many species of wildlife including sea birds. Choose re-usable items such as cloth bags and re-fillable water bottles. Clean up any trash or plastic you find when you visit the beach or other natural areas.
- Be a citizen scientist! Record the wildlife you see using apps and databases to help researchers. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology offers many projects.
- If you have bird feeders or bird baths, clean them regularly. Harmful bacteria can quickly grow in wet or old food. Do not use commercially sold red hummingbird nectar - it contains elements that are harmful to hummingbirds. Instead, save money and birds by making your own hummingbird food using a 1:4 ratio of sugar to water. Here are some tips on safely feeding birds.
Overnight Care Instructions
It is illegal to possess wildlife for more than 48 hours without wildlife permits. Immediately contact your local wildlife rehabilitator(s) to report finding an animal. Learn more>>
Basic Overnight Care
- Securely contain the found animal in a box or pet crate. Create small air holes in the box. If using a pet crate, cover half of the crate with a towel to provide a hiding place for the animal. For birds, avoid using wire cages as they can cause feather damage.
- Keep the animal in an area that is room temperature, dark, quiet, and away from people and pets.
- Stress kills! To wild animals, humans and pets are predators. Avoid looking at or touching the animal after you have it secured. Leaving the animal alone as much as possible is key to its survival.
- In most cases, it is best NOT to feed the animal or provide water, as these actions can cause more harm than good. Most animals do not need food overnight and will be fine without food until they are brought to a wildlife rehabber the next day. A SHALLOW dish of water may be provided for adult animals that can stand up, but never for young animals. See below for special considerations.
- Hummingbirds: Keeping hummingbirds in a dark room helps slow their metabolism and reduces the need to feed them overnight. Any feeding must be done carefully to prevent feather damage. Sugar water can be made by using 1 part table sugar to 4 parts warm water. Stir until dissolved. Offer sugar water to the bird by dipping a q-tip into water and holding the q-tip to the bird’s bill.
- Young animals must be kept warmer than room temperature. Heating options include:
- Place a heating pad set on low under half of the container
- Fill a clean athletic sock with rice and heat in the microwave for 1 minute. Tape the sock to the bottom of the container. Re-heat as needed.
- Do not offer formula or milk of any kind to young animals! Young animals can easily aspirate (inhale liquid), causing pneumonia. Instead, consider the feeding options below:
- Young rabbits: Can be offered fresh (pesticide-free) grass or lettuce. Do not offer fruits or vegetables as they are too rich for the digestive system.
- Young rodents: Can offer soft vegetable pieces such as zucchini.
- Young birds of prey: Do not need food overnight as they are fed only a few times per day.
- Young songbirds: Birds that open their mouth to beg may be offered a few pieces of cat or kitten kibble soaked in water, with tweezers, every 30 minutes while the sun is up.
Responsible Pet Ownership and Domestic Animals
Having a pet is a big responsibility. Ensure that you are aware of all factors involved before adopting or purchasing a pet. Learn More>>
The Living Desert is unable to accept pet or domestic animals. If you have a pet that you would like to re-home, look into the following resources below.
Pet Bird Species (parrots, budgies; etc.)
- The Landing Zone Parrot Sanctuary (760) 333-9753
- Parrots First (866) 712-8899
- Parrot Education and Adoption Center (619) 287-8200
Reptiles (African Sulcata Tortoise, Red-eared Slider Turtle, Bearded Dragon; etc.)
- Turtle Rescue Centers in USA
- California Reptiles & More Rescue Group Directory
- The California Turtle and Tortoise Club
- Palm Springs VCA, Stephanie Horwitz, DVM, Associate Veterinarian
Cats and Dogs
- Coachella Valley Animal Campus (760) 343-3644
- Animal Samaritans (760) 601-3918
- Palm Springs Animal Shelter (760) 416-5718
Other Pet/Domestic Species
- Rabbit Rescue (562) 862-8844
Rabbits and Hares
The Desert Cottontail is the most common wild rabbit found in the Coachella Valley. Less common is the Black-tailed Jackrabbit, a species of hare.
The most common question regarding rabbits is their nesting situation. Cottontail rabbit nests are shallow depressions on the ground, covered with plant material and often lined with some of the mother’s fur. Young cottontails live in the nest for less than three weeks. Mother rabbits only visit the nest twice daily to feed the babies (once at dawn, and again at dusk). This prevents drawing the attention of predators to the nest. Newborn cottontails have their eyes closed, have little fur, and cannot move around much. They are typically about 3-4 inches long when they leave the nest, and at this point they are fully independent from their mother.
Jackrabbits do not use a nest, as babies are more independent from birth (born with eyes open, furred, and able to hop). Young jackrabbits typically stay in a general area where the mother will visit each one to feed. Jackrabbit young are significantly larger than cottontails and have a dark stripe behind their eyes, which cottontails lack.
If you find a rabbit that is injured or has been in contact with a pet cat or dog, it should be brought to a wildlife rehabilitator for care. Cat bites are often fatal in rabbits if not treated! If you find a young rabbit that does not appear to be injured, in most cases it is best to leave it alone. Rabbits are a high-stress species that do not do well under human care.
- If you find a young cottontail less than 3 inches long outside of the nest, look around for the nest. You can place the rabbit back in the nest and conduct an experiment (“Test a Nest”) to see if the mother returns to feed it. If you cannot find the nest, contact a wildlife rehabilitator.
- If you find an uninjured young cottontail more than 3 inches long, leave it alone as it is fully independent at this age, despite its small size.
It is important never to feed young rabbits formula or milk of any kind, as they easily aspirate (inhale liquid) and have very sensitive stomachs. If you do find a young rabbit, the best thing you can do is keep it warm and contact a wildlife rehabilitator immediately for further advice.
The Coachella Valley and surrounding desert are home to many species of snake. Snakes play an important role in our desert ecosystem by consuming rodents and insects. It is important to learn about snakes, as awareness is key to reducing conflict. Learning how to behave in snake territory is vital to anyone who spends time in the desert.
A good tip for anyone residing in or visiting the desert is to never put your hands or feet anywhere you can’t see them. Many creatures in the desert live in dark or enclosed spaces, and for your safety it is best to use a tool like a broom to reach into these spaces when cleaning or gardening. Children should be taught from a young age to be aware as well. Watch where you are walking when hiking.
Many people are fearful of snakes. Learning about snakes and how to identify different species is a good way to lessen the fear of snakes. Learn more>>
Rattlesnakes are common in the desert. They are defensive, not aggressive, and avoid humans when possible. Most snakebites can be avoided if you leave snakes alone! California Herps has some excellent information about coexisting with rattlesnakes.
As with all wildlife, removing attractants and sealing up buildings are effective means of preventing conflict with snakes. Attractants for snakes are mainly brushy areas for hiding, and food, such as spilled birdseed, that attracts rodents to the area. Here are some simple steps you can take to reduce conflict>>
Within the Coachella Valley, contact OC Snake Removal for further information and advice on snakes in or near the home. Learn more>>
Natural Solutions Wildlife Enterprises offers K9 Rattlesnake Avoidance Training. Learn more>>
For further information and advice on snakes in or near the home, within the Coachella Valley:
• Palm Springs Snake Club: (760) 880-9357
• OC Snake Removal: (949) 933-1868
Turtles and Tortoises
Although circumstances produced by the COVID-19 pandemic forced the Wildlife Rehabilitation program to close, to support our local community and conservation efforts, The Living Desert continues to run a Desert Tortoise Program. The mission of the program is to promote the health of wild, native populations of desert tortoises (Gopherus agassizii) and share conservation action expertise.
The Living Desert accomplishes these goals by caring for surrendered (and lost/found) pet desert tortises and by providing resources for a variety of tortoise related inquiries.
Desert tortoise surrender and adoption:
Tortoises in human care risk spreading Upper Respiratory Tract Disease to the endangered, wild population and are not eligible for release. Therefore, the intake and continued care of them, until potential adoption, is done as a public service for our local community. Pet tortoises are evaluated by veterinary staff to determine their eligibility for adoption out to good homes. For more information please contact email@example.com.
If you are interested in adopting a desert tortoise, and live in the Coachella Valley or want to adopt a tortoise from The Living Desert, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’re outside of the Coachella Valley, please contact your nearest California Turtle & Tortoise Club chapter – happy adopting!
The Living Desert is not an emergency public service. We can only intake desert tortoises if, and when, we are able to properly follow protocols and quarantine procedures.
Wild desert tortoise:
The Coachella Valley is home to a wide variety of desert animals, including the desert tortoise. As our valley grows and the number of visitors increase, so do the number interactions between humans and desert tortoises. Knowing what to do when you encounter a tortoise can be difficult, as it will depend on the circumstances surrounding the encounter.
Click here to learn how you can support local desert tortoise populations and what to do if you find a desert tortoise.
Other pet turtles and tortoise:
Two of the most common pet turtle and tortoise species are the Red-eared Slider Turtle and the African Sulcata Tortoise. Neither species is native to California. Non-native species often out-compete native species for resources and therefore should never be placed into the wild. If you have a pet Red-eared Slider or African Sulcata that you would like to re-home, please use the following resources:
- Tortoise Rescue Centers in USA
- California Reptiles & More Rescue Group Directory
- The California Turtle and Tortoise Club
Please note that many turtle and tortoise rescues become overwhelmed by the number of Red-eared Slider and African Sulcatas that need new homes. You may need to contact multiple facilities before you’re able to find a facility that can accept your pet. Learn more>>
Care information for common pet turtle and tortoise species:
Have you found a young bird?
In many cases when a human finds a baby bird, it is best to leave the bird in the wild, so its parents may continue to care for it. Read the information below and contact a wildlife rehabilitator for further advice, as every situation is different. Any young bird that is injured, cold or lethargic, or that has been in contact with a cat or dog, should be brought to a permitted wildlife rehabber. Learn more>>
Most birds are altricial, meaning that they hatch with eyes closed and little or no down, depend on parent bird(s) for warmth and food, and remain in the nest for a period of time. Songbirds and hummingbirds have altricial chicks. Bird of prey chicks are also altricial, although they hatch with a full downy covering. Other birds are precocial, meaning that chicks hatch with eyes open and can walk with their parents within a day or two of hatching. Precocial chicks can find some of their own food but rely upon their parents for protection and guidance. Ducks and quail have precocial chicks.
Altricial chicks go through several developmental stages:
1.) Hatchling- just hatched, eyes closed, have naked skin or some down
2.) Nestling- eyes open, have down and some pinfeathers (spiky looking feathers), able to stand in the nest
3.) Fledgling- well-feathered with short tail and wing feathers, have left the nest and are able to hop and make short flights
Hatchling and nestling birds need to live in a nest. If you find birds in these developmental stages outside of a nest, consult a rehabber for advice. You may be able to do a re-nesting. Fledgling birds are too old for the nest and are the most common age chick found by people. It is normal for fledglings to spend a period of one week to two weeks on the ground as their wing and tail feathers continue to develop. During this time, their parent(s) are around helping to provide food and protection. Fledglings are undergoing a critical learning period and it is very important to let their parent(s) raise them whenever possible. Please do not be a “bird-napper!” Learn more>>